Se­nate votes against bor­der emer­gency

Cruz and Cornyn don’t join a dozen other Repub­li­cans re­buk­ing Trump

San Antonio Express-News - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Lam­brecht

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.

An­drew Harnik / As­so­ci­ated Press

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San An­to­nio, speaks to re­porters out­side the Capi­tol after the Se­nate re­jected Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's emer­gency bor­der dec­la­ra­tion.

J. Scott Ap­ple­white / As­so­ci­ated Press

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, heads to the Se­nate cham­ber as mem­bers pre­pare to vote on the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion.

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