Senate to rebuke Trump on wall – By Alexander Bolton (The Hill) / March 14 2019
The GOP-controlled Senate is poised to pass a Democratic resolution Thursday blocking President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the Mexican border.
Talks within the GOP conference to avoid an embarrassing rebuke for Trump collapsed Wednesday, and Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) joined four fellow Republican senators who have already said they will back the measure.
Many more are expected to vote against Trump on Thursday. Members of both parties believe he went too far in declaring an emergency to secure funding for a wall that he could not win through the appropriations process — or an extended government shutdown that was a black eye for the Republican Party.
The House has already approved the resolution, meaning Trump will be forced to use his veto power for the first time.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have said they will back the measure. Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) are among the Republicans who could join them.
Republicans control 53 seats in the chamber, and Democrats are set to back the resolution unanimously. A GOP aide said the high-water mark for votes against Trump is likely 12 Republicans and 59 senators overall.
A senior Senate GOP aide confirmed the vote will happen Thursday, although a precise time was not locked in by Wednesday afternoon.
Lawmakers opposed to Trump’s use of the emergency declaration seem unable to meet the two-thirds majority vote in either chamber to overturn his veto, but a big vote in the Senate would at least put opponents in striking range.
Tillis and Lee were in talks with Vice President Pence on Tuesday to try to find a compromise that would allow them to vote against the resolution of disapproval, but those talks collapsed on Wednesday.
“We tried to cut a deal, the president didn’t appear interested,” Lee told The Hill. “I’ll be voting ‘yes.’ ”
The president called Lee during a lunch meeting of the Senate GOP conference to announce that he would not endorse Lee’s bill to require Congress to approve future emergencies.
Republican senators said Trump’s opposition to reining in his emergency powers effectively blew up any chance of coming up with a strategy to defeat the disapproval resolution.
“ ‘Dandy Don’ Meredith used to sing a song at the end of the game when the result was obvious. It was called turn out the lights, the party’s over. Well, that’s appropriate right now,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters after Trump’s position became known.
“It’s time to vote, everybody knows how they’re going to vote. I don’t think the president’s going to win this one,” he added.
Trump, who is using the emergency declaration to access billions of dollars to build the wall, including $3.6 billion in military construction funds, warned Republicans on Wednesday that defectors are making a political mistake.
“This is a vote on border security and it’s a vote on drugs and trafficking and all of that. And I think most Republican senators fully understand that,” Trump told reporters.
Trump says senators can vote their conscience but should proceed carefully.
“I said use your own discretion. But I think it’s a bad vote if they go against — I think anybody going against border security, drug trafficking, human trafficking, that’s a bad vote,” he said.
Republican senators say there are still some negotiations happening over what time the vote should happen and whether the resolution should be subject to amendments.
“There’s been discussion about potential amendments, and that was part of what was discussed, but there’s no decision made,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Thursday’s vote will be the second time in two days the GOP-controlled Senate has broken with Trump.
The chamber voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war. It passed a similar resolution in December. That legislation must still pass the House.
Rubio said Wednesday that Trump’s declaration is troubling because it would take away money Congress appropriated for military construction projects.
“It’s money that Congress specifically appropriated for purposes of construction on military facilities. You could make an argument that it’s legal under the statute, but it stretches it and that’s what people are uncomfortable with,” he said.
Rubio said there’s discussion about an alternative resolution sponsored by Alexander and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would limit Trump’s ability to redirect funding to two pockets of money.
Another GOP lawmaker, however, said that proposal has been on the table for days and failed to generate much support in the conference.
“It’s gotten to the point of being absurd,” the senator said of the increasingly frantic efforts to find a way to avoid voting for the disapproval resolution.
Alexander, a Senate institutionalist who is retiring in 2020, has led the criticism of Trump’s action.
He called the emergency declaration “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.”
Alexander and other Republicans say that a future Democratic president could use Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to tear down the border wall, to close coal plants or to require all Americans to receive health coverage under Medicare instead of from private employers.