Se­nate spurns Trump; veto time?

Emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for bor­der wall de­nied as 12 Repub­li­cans re­volt

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica Werner, Se­ung Min Kim and John Wag­ner The Wash­ing­ton Post

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 will send the mea­sure to Trump’s desk. Trump 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 up 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 with Trump and 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 sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of them — in­clud­ing Port­man and Gardner, who is up for re­elec­tion next year — wait­ing un­til Thurs­day to an­nounce their po­si­tions.

In the end, only one Repub­li­can who is up for re­elec­tion next year — Su­san Collins, R-Maine — voted for the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion.

In ad­di­tion to Collins and Port­man, the other 10 GOP sen­a­tors vot­ing for the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion 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, Marco Ru­bio of Florida, Pa­trick Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia and Roger Wicker of Mis­sis­sippi.

Sen. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., an­other sen­a­tor up for re­elec­tion in a po­lit­i­cally di­vided state, had an­nounced last month that he would vote for the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion. He wrote an opin­ion piece in The Wash­ing­ton Post at the time ar­gu­ing there would be “no in­tel­lec­tual hon­esty” in sup­port­ing ex­ec­u­tive over­reach by Trump that he had op­posed un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

But on Thurs­day Til­lis flipped and cast his vote with the pres­i­dent, say­ing he was re­as­sured by in­di­ca­tions that Trump would sup­port changes to the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act it­self, to rein in pres­i­den­tial pow­ers go­ing for­ward.

Til­lis’ f lip- f lop high­lighted the po­lit­i­cal pres­sure Repub­li­cans felt over po­ten­tially cross­ing the pres­i­dent.

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 last­ditch ef­fort to craft a com­pro­mise.

Their ef­forts failed, and Gra­ham, Cruz and Sasse all ended up vot­ing against the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion.

“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.

Ahead of the vote, Trump took to Twit­ter to goad his crit­ics and in­sist that de­fec­tors would be sid­ing with Pelosi.

“A vote for today’s res­o­lu­tion by Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Bor­der Democrats!” Trump wrote.

The pres­i­dent said he would sup­port GOP ef­forts to up­date the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act at a later date — some­thing that’s been un­der dis­cus­sion as a way to rein in pres­i­den­tial pow­ers go­ing for­ward — “but today’s is­sue is BOR­DER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don’t vote with Pelosi!”

Pelosi her­self told re­porters: “The Se­nate will hope­fully vote for the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States to up­hold the oath of of­fice that we all take by vot­ing to re­ject the pres­i­dent’s mea­sure that does vi­o­lence on the Con­sti­tu­tion. ... We’ll then send the bill to the pres­i­dent.”

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.

Gra­ham de­clined to spec­ify what ex­actly was dis­cussed when he and the oth­ers showed up to in­ter­rupt Trump’s din­ner Wed­nes­day night, but said it fo­cused on sat­is­fy­ing those con­cerns.

The at­tempted last-minute in­ter­ven­tion by Gra­ham and the oth­ers was just the lat­est at­tempt by Repub­li­cans to find some kind of com­pro­mise, as they chose be­tween sid­ing with Trump or cross­ing him on Thurs­day’s vote. But Trump re­peat­edly shot down the GOP’s at­tempts at deal­mak­ing, call­ing Lee during a pri­vate GOP lunch Wed­nes­day to re­ject a pro­posal to cur­tail pres­i­den­tial pow­ers un­der the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act.

Shortly af­ter that, the Utah sen­a­tor an­nounced he would be vot­ing for the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion.

JIM WAT­SON — GETTY IM­AGES

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds up the dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tion signed Thurs­day that blocks Pres­i­dent Trump’s na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion.

WIN MCNAMEE — GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­fers with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi while de­part­ing the U.S. Capi­tol fol­low­ing a St. Pa­trick’s Day cel­e­bra­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Thurs­day. The Se­nate voted Thurs­day to re­ject Trump’s na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, set­ting up the pres­i­dent’s first veto.

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