Pres­i­dent to wield pen like a sword

Veto looms af­ter the Se­nate, with GOP help, re­jects Trump’s emer­gency or­der.

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - BY ERICA WENER, SE­UNG MIN KIM AND JOHN WAG­NER

WASH­ING­TON — The Se­nate passed a res­o­lu­tion Thurs­day to over­turn Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion of a na­tional emer­gency at the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der, with 12 Repub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats to de­liver a bi­par­ti­san re­buke to the pres­i­dent.

The dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion passed the House last month, so the 59-41 Se­nate vote sends the mea­sure to Trump’s desk. He has promised to use the first veto of his pres­i­dency to strike it down, and Congress does not have the votes to over­ride the veto.

“VETO!” Trump tweeted mo­ments af­ter the vote.

Still, the Se­nate vote stood as a rare in­stance of Repub­li­cans break­ing with Trump in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers on an is­sue cen­tral to his pres­i­dency — the con­struc­tion of a wall along the south­ern bor­der.

For weeks Trump had sought to frame the de­bate in terms of im­mi­gra­tion, ar­gu­ing that Repub­li­can se­na­tors who sup­ported bor­der se­cu­rity should

back him on the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion. But for many GOP law­mak­ers, it was about a big­ger is­sue: The Con­sti­tu­tion it­self, which grants Congress — not the pres­i­dent — con­trol over gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

By declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency in or­der to by­pass Congress to get money for his wall, Trump was vi­o­lat­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and set­ting a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous prece­dent, these se­na­tors ar­gued.

“It’s im­per­a­tive for the pres­i­dent to honor Congress’ con­sti­tu­tional role,” Sen. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, said Thurs­day on the Se­nate floor as he an­nounced his vote in fa­vor of the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion. “A na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion is a tool to be used cau­tiously and spar­ingly.”

Repub­li­cans who voted against the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion said the pres­i­dent was act­ing within his au­thor­ity un­der the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act, and tak­ing nec­es­sary steps to ad­dress a hu­man­i­tar­ian and drug cri­sis at the bor­der that Democrats had ig­nored.

“There is a cri­sis at the bor­der and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have pre­vented a so­lu­tion,” said Sen. Cory Gard­ner, R-Colo., nam­ing the House speaker and Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader. “It should never have come to this, but in the ab­sence of con­gres­sional ac­tion, the pres­i­dent did what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer re­fused to do.”

Many GOP se­na­tors ag­o­nized at length be­fore de­cid­ing how to vote, with many of them — in­clud­ing Port­man and Gard­ner, who is up for re-elec­tion next year — wait­ing un­til Thurs­day to an­nounce their po­si­tions.

In the end, only one Repub­li­can who is up for re-elec­tion next year — Su­san Collins, R-Maine — voted to re­ject the dec­la­ra­tion.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott voted with the pres­i­dent. “It’s clear that there is a cri­sis and it’s long-passed time to fix it,” Scott tweeted.

In ad­di­tion to Collins and Port­man, Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio was among the dozen GOP se­na­tors vot­ing against Trump. In a state­ment, Ru­bio said pas­sage of Trump’s emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion “would cre­ate a prece­dent a fu­ture pres­i­dent may abuse to jump-start pro­grams like the Green New Deal.”

The other nine GOP se­na­tors vot­ing against Trump were La­mar Alexan­der of Ten­nessee; Roy Blunt of Mis­souri; Mike Lee of Utah; Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Rand Paul of Ken­tucky; Mitt Rom­ney of Utah; Pa­trick Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia; and Roger Wicker of Mis­sis­sippi.

Thurs­day’s vote fol­lowed nu­mer­ous failed ef­forts at com­pro­mise by vac­il­lat­ing GOP se­na­tors, in­clud­ing a dra­matic in­ci­dent Wed­nes­day evening where a trio of GOP se­na­tors — Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb. — showed up nearly unan­nounced at the White House, in­ter­rupt­ing Trump at din­ner in a last-ditch ef­fort to craft a com­pro­mise.

Their ef­forts failed, and Gra­ham, Cruz and Sasse all ended up vot­ing against dis­ap­prov­ing Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion.

“I said thank you for meet­ing with us. Sorry we ru­ined your din­ner. And again, if it’d been me, I would have kicked us out af­ter about five min­utes,” Gra­ham said later.

Con­cern among GOP se­na­tors has fo­cused on Trump’s use of the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act to grab $3.6 bil­lion ap­pro­pri­ated by Congress for mil­i­tary con­struc­tion projects na­tion­wide — and use it to build bar­ri­ers along the bor­der in­stead.

The vote came a day af­ter a Se­nate vote to end U.S. sup­port for the Saudi-led war in Ye­men, mark­ing un­usual twin re­bukes from a Se­nate that has mostly bowed to Trump’s wishes.

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