House votes to overturn emergency declaration
Unlikely to override promised veto
The House delivered a searing rebuke to President Trump last week, voting to overturn his border emergency wall building declaration in a floor showdown Democrats said was nothing short of a historic stand against tyranny.
The victory, however, could be short-lived.
The vote sends the bill to the Senate, which will vote sometime in March, and appears likely to pass the resolution. But Mr. Trump has vowed a veto, and the 245182 vote shows that while the president couldn’t muster a majority, there is more than enough GOP support to sustain his veto.
“This emergency declaration will be upheld,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who is in charge of GOP vote-counting. “Ultimately, we are going to stand with the president in making sure we can secure this border and confront this national crisis that’s taking lives every single day.”
That does not, however, mean the debate is painless for Mr. Trump, who will likely see another loss in the Senate this month, and who will likely have to use his veto for the first time in his administration.
And the president could suffer political damage, having failed to convince most Americans of the need for his wall, and facing a bipartisan rebuke on Capitol Hill.
Democrats cast the vote as a constitutional clash between a runaway president and a Congress intend on defending democracy.
“Perhaps it’s time for our country to have a civics lesson,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chided her GOP colleagues, telling them to live up to their oath of office to defend the Constitution.
“We’re not going to give any president, Democrat or Republican, a blank check to shred the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “We would be delinquent in our duty as members of Congress if we did not overturn what the president proposed.”
Republicans, though, said Mr. Trump was acting under clear emergency powers Congress granted in the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
That law does give the president powers to shift money around in times of emergency. The law also gives Congress a path to block him, by passing a resolution of disapproval. That’s what the House did. Thirteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Mr. Trump. But that’s well short of the 53 House Republicans who would need to vote with all Democrats to achieve the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto.
The measure does, however, go to the Senate, where it must be voted on within 15 business days.
Vice President Mike Pence met with GOP senators over lunch to try to limit defections. Several members of the Republican Conference have already said they’ll join Democrats to vote against Mr. Trump.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was a “very fulsome” discussion.
“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” he said.
In the House, GOP leaders cast the vote not as a constitutional clash but rather a statement about the situation on the border. They said that from what they can see, the president is right to declare an emergency.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Wisconsin Republican, just returned from a border deployment with the Wisconsin National Guard, and he said the emergency isn’t so much immigration — he said he supports a broad bill to legalize immigrants living in the U.S. without permission — but rather with drugsmugglers and with “coyotes” who lead migrants on the dangerous journey north.
“A wall, a barrier, is not compassionless. I think border security and compassion actually go hand-in-hand,” Mr. Kinzinger said.
Congress last month approved $1.375 billion in new wall money. Mr. Trump signed that bill, but then declared the border emergency and said he’ll move $3.6 billion from military construction money to use for more border wall building. He also said he’ll tap $600 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, and $2.5 billion from a Pentagon drug interdiction fund.
Only the military construction money needs the emergency declaration.
All told, the administration envisions building at least 200 miles of new fencing with the money.
Hypocrisy was rife on both sides in the House vote.
Nearly every Republican in the House in 2014 voted to rebuke President Barack Obama for executive overreach on Obamacare, in a vote authorizing the House to sue him for spending money Congress had specifically cut out of that year’s budget.
Yet last week most of them applauded Mr. Trump for spending beyond the $1.375 billion Congress approved for border wall construction.
Meanwhile, Democrats, who cheered Mr. Obama when he spent the Obamacare money over Congress’s objections and praised him when he created a deportation amnesty for “Dreamers,” immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, by executive action in 2012, called Mr. Trump a unique threat to democracy.
“The Congress of the United States needs to have a spine and not lay at the feet of the president of the United States and say ‘Whatever you want, sir!’” thundered Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.
The 13 Republicans who joined Mr. Hoyer and other Democrats in bucking Mr. Trump were Reps. Justin Amash and Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Gallagher and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Will Hurd of Texas, Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Tom Rooney of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York, and Greg Walden of Oregon.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of President Trump’s wall, and today’s vote had nothing to do with the need to build it,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers tweeted. “For the same reason I was against President Obama using his ‘pen and phone,’ I voted to disapprove of this unilateral executive action.”