Senate votes against border emergency
Cruz and Cornyn don’t join a dozen other Republicans rebuking Trump
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday for a resolution to nullify President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
It’s a rebuke to the president and his drive to build a wall along the border with Mexico. The resolution had been passed Feb. 26 by the House.
While Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted to protect Trump’s authority, a dozen Republicans voted against the president’s emergency declaration, designed to tap billions of dollars Congress had intended to use elsewhere.
However, Cornyn and Cruz also said Congress should move to rein in presidential power in the future.
The 59-41 vote for the resolution — initiated by San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro — sets up a veto by Trump, the first of his presidency, as he seeks to deliver on the border wall promise that propelled his rise to the White House.
Trump tweeted shortly after the vote: “I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country.”
Thursday’s vote was the first direct challenge of a president by Congress to the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
The 12 GOP senators voting against the president included the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah.
He told the Associated Press: “This is a constitutional question. It’s a question about the balance of power that is core to our constitution.
“This is not about the president. “The president can certainly express his views as he has, and individual senators can express theirs.”
Despite traveling to Capitol Hill before the vote to persuade senators and warnings in recent weeks that defectors would pay a price at re-election time, the president couldn’t keep all Sen-
ate Republicans in rank.
Also, late efforts to reach a compromise, including a plan to restrict future executive powers, came up short. Republicans continued to defect, among them Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
“It opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want,” Portman said, adding that presidents might of use the power to restrict the news media, seize industries — or even tear down a Trump-built wall.
The defections spoke to the discord among Republicans over siding with the president or protecting Congress’ constitutional authority to dictate how tax dollars are spent.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, Cruz declined to stake out a position on the emergency declaration — an issue that put Cruz’s alliance with Trump at odds with his zeal for the Constitution, which he memorized as a teenager and often cites as the deciding factor on his votes.
Cruz said in late February that he was studying the underlying legal justifications for the president’s action.
Thursday, Cruz offered this explanation of his decision to support the president: “This was a difficult vote. I understand my colleagues’ real concerns regarding the vast emergency powers that Congress has given the president over the last half-century. I share those concerns.
“When President (Barack) Obama violated the Constitution through executive amnesty, I led the fight against that lawless action. Unlike President Obama, here President Trump is acting pursuant to explicit statutory authority.”
He went on to say that the emergency powers act is overbroad, “open to abuse” and needs reform, points that Cornyn also made during the debate.
Castro, who began crafting the Democrats’ strategy weeks ago and engineered House passage, afterward called it “probably the most important vote in a generation regarding the balance of power between the legislative and executive branch.”
He added in an interview, “Stakes were very high for Texas. There likely will be hundreds of miles of private property seized. Our senators stood up for Donald Trump instead of Texas.”
Cornyn said it was clear to him Trump has the authority to declare an emergency under powers granted by Congress and used by presidents since the 1970s.
But like Cruz, Cornyn also asserted that the time has arrived for Congress to rein in the executive branch with regard to national emergencies.
He described pending legislation that would require Congress to reaffirm a White House declaration every 30 days for it to continue.
Rather than “scolding” Trump, Cornyn, said, “we should fix this delegation … not just to this president but to any president since 1976.”
“The real cause of where we are today is just politics, Cornyn said, accusing Democrats of ignoring the arrival at the border of tens of thousands of people seeking asylum every month.
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia was among Democrats painting the declaration as an unauthorized effort to tap Pentagon construction funds.
Congress has pressed the military to provide the list of projects that would be delayed or canceled, but no final list had been provided despite promises that Congress would receive one.
“The vote that we will be casting is about whether the president should be able to raid the Pentagon’s budget for $6.1 billion. We have been asking for a month what projects will be affected, and they will give us that list after we vote today.
Democrats produced their own list of vulnerable projects, several in Texas. They include tens of millions of dollars for Joint Base San Antonio, including $90 million for a recruit dormitory and $38 million for classrooms and a dining facility.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, voted in favor of protecting Trump’s authority.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, speaks to reporters outside the Capitol after the Senate rejected President Donald Trump's emergency border declaration.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, heads to the Senate chamber as members prepare to vote on the emergency declaration.