Trump issues first veto to protect border order

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (March 15, 2019) — President Donald Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, overruling Congress to protect his emergency declaration for border wall funding.

Flanked by law enforcement officials as well as the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally, Trump maintained that he is not through fighting for his signature campaign promise.

"Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution," Trump said, "and I have the duty to veto it."

A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats in approving the joint resolution on Thursday, which capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump's veto, though House Democrats have suggested they would try nonetheless.

Trump wants to use the emergency order to divert billions of federal dollars earmarked for defense spending toward the southern border wall. It still faces several legal challenges from Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups who argue the emergency declaration was unconstitutional.

Trump maintained that the situation on the southern border is "a tremendous national emergency," adding, "our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point."

Two years into the Trump era, a dozen Republicans, pushed along by Democrats, showed a willingness to take the political risk of defecting. The 12 GOP senators, including the party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the dissent over the emergency declaration order that would enable the president to seize for the wall billions of dollars Congress intended to be spent elsewhere.

Thursday's vote was the first direct challenge to the 1976 National Emergencies Act, just as a Wednesday vote on Yemen was the first time Congress invoked the decades-old War Powers Act to try to rein in a president. That resolution seeking to end U.S. backing for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting in Yemen was approved in the aftermath of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and is expected to be the subject of Trump's second veto.

Despite the defections, Trump's grip on the party remains strong and the White House made it clear that Republicans resisting Trump could face political consequences. Ahead of the voting, Trump framed the issue as with-him-or-against-him on border security, a powerful argument with many.

But Friday, Trump said he had sympathy for Republicans who voted against him and emphasized that he never truly twisted the arms of lawmakers, because he knew there were not enough votes to override the veto.

"Look, they were doing what they have to do," Trump said, insisting he "put no pressure" on lawmakers to vote against the resolution.

Still, a White House official said Trump won't forget when senators who opposed him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official was not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump painted his usual portrait of a lawless and violent border. He cited "thousands and thousands" of gang arrests and claimed many of the asylum seekers released into the U.S. were "stone-cold killers." He noted, correctly, a spike in the number of people coming to the border to claim asylum.

 

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