12 GOP Sens. Help Dems to Pass ‘Rebuke’ of Trump Emergency Declaration

‘We have failed to protect our border as any sovereign nation must and our people are dying because of it…’

(Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times) A dozen Senate Republicans on Thursday joined Democrats to vote against President Donald Trump’s border emergency declaration.

Liberal open-border advocates and Trump opponents touted the 59-41 resolution to terminate the president’s declaration as a stinging rebuke of the White House’s decision to circumvent Congress in order to deliver on the president’s campaign pledge to build a wall.

However, it is believed to have been a largely symbolic measure as neither the House nor Senate bill received the two-thirds majority needed to override a planned presidential veto, which would be the first of Trump’s presidency.

Trump reiterated that promise before and after the vote, including with a succinct post on Twitter.

Senate Democrats would need to recruit eight more GOP senators—67 total—to override the veto.

That scenario, however, is highly implausible, leaving the president’s opponents only one last resort of stalling or challenging the emergency declaration in court.

The measure had been expected to pass a narrow majority vote after four GOP senators announcing beforehand their intention to defect. In total, nine others joined Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkoswski of Alaska, in crossing the aisle.

Other Republicans voting with Democrats included Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Lee of Utah, Mitt Romney of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

One of those who had planned to support the bill, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, changed his mind—possibly due to the threat of a primary challenge that had been raised following his announcement.

Under intense lobbying from the White House, Tillis said he changed his mind because he and other lawmakers were working on a broader measure to limit the president’s authority for declaring national emergencies.

Tillis previously had maintained that his opposition to Trump’s declaration was not a denial of the emergency at the border but a deep concern for executive overreach.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, often used unilateral orders to circumvent Congressional legislation. That included his decision to suspend deportation of some illegal immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which contributed to the current influx of border-crossers.

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Lamar Alexander/Photo by AMSF2011 (CC)

Several of the GOP defectors, including Alexander, underscored the point that their vote was not a rebuke of Trump’s efforts to take action against illegal immigration.

“I believe the crisis on our southern border is real,” Alexander said on the Senate floor. “U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested more than 66,000 illegal aliens in February 2019, the highest total in a single month since March 2009.”

The vote followed an earlier effort, led by Alexander, to convince the White House to withdraw the resolution and turn to other means to construct the border wall.

He publicly urged the administration to look elsewhere for border money, warning that the resolution was “a dangerous precedent” that future Democratic presidents will use to enact other priorities, like gun control and climate change.

Sen. Mike Lee, meanwhile, tried to broker a compromise with a resolution to limit the president’s power to enact emergency declarations. The White House rejected both ideas.

Both men voted with Democrats to rescind the president’s declaration.

Lawmakers in both parties viewed the emergency declaration as an end-run around Congress’ constitutional authority to determine how the federal government spends money. Just months ago, after the longest partial government shutdown on record, Congress voted to fund the government with only a fraction of the money Trump had requested for a border barrier.

“This is a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core,” said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the Republicans who voted against the president. “For the executive branch to override a law passed by Congress would make it the ultimate power rather than a balancing power.”

Despite the vocal opposition from NeverTrumpers, though, most GOP senators saw the greater to be coming from Central America and not the Oval Office.

“We have failed to protect our border as any sovereign nation must and our people are dying because of it,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. “The administration’s sensible, long-overdue efforts to secure the border have been met only by howls of outrage from the Democratic Party.”

Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.