Trump Uses His First Veto to Uphold Emergency Declaration at Border

‘Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it…’

President Donald Trump signs his first veto on March 15, rejecting the effort by Congress to block his national emergency declaration on the southern border. / IMAGE: Fox News via Youtube

(Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times) With his first veto Friday, President Donald Trump defied Congressional opposition to his declared national emergency and asserted his power to circumvent the legislative branch in order to direct billions of dollars for a wall at the southern border.

Trump promised the veto well before yesterday’s vote in the Senate should the Republican-led chamber side with the Democratic House of Representatives.

A dozen GOP senators did cross the aisle—although many maintained that it was to voice their opposition to unilateral executive overreach, much as Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was criticized for using in the past.

Trump, however, boldly stood his ground, maintaining that the scourge of illegal immigration more than justified the action.

Trump declared the national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico frontier Feb. 15, after failing to pressure Congress into authorizing $5.7 billion for a physical barrier along the border. In December and January, he’d forced a 35-day government shutdown, the longest ever, by refusing to sign a government-funding bill unless Congress included the wall money.

In announcing the declaration in the Rose Garden last month, Trump anticipated the concerns of some of the Senate defectors like Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mike Lee of Utah, who urged him to seek a compromise solution or alternative source of funding that did not create fears of an imbalance within the executive and legislative branches.

But with less than two years left to fulfill one of his crucial campaign promises, and with the backlog of illegal immigrants awaiting asylum hearings continuing to balloon as liberal open-borders advocates encourage thousands to arrive in caravans, there was little time to spare.

“I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said.

Moments after the Senate vote on Thursday, the president quickly signaled his response by simply tweeting “VETO!”

On Friday, he signed the veto before television cameras in the Oval Office, flanked by law officers, and the parents of victims of crime and drug addiction.

Trump told reporters, “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it.”

Both chambers of Congress fell short of the two-thirds margin needed to override a presidential veto.

The Senate’s 59-41 margin meant it would still need eight GOP senators to override the veto.

Thirteen House Republicans supported the resolution in the House two weeks ago of the 198 presently in the lower chamber. About 40 more would be needed.

However, the emergency declaration still faces challenges in federal court as an executive power grab.

In sending the resolution to Trump, Congress for the third time in the week took action standing up to him, a rare break after two years in which Republicans’ deference to the president left him largely unchallenged by the legislative branch.

Trump’s first veto comes after just over two months of split control of Congress, following Democrats’ capture of a House majority in the midterm election, and there could be more vetoes to come.

President George W. Bush, who governed for his first six years with a Republican-controlled Congress, went his entire first term without a veto. In his second term, he issued 12, most after Democrats took over Congress for his final two years.

Bush’s first veto was for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in 2005, which religious and antiabortion conservatives opposed because it lifted funding restrictions for research using embryos.

Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, also issued 12 vetoes over his two terms, 10 in his final two years when Republicans had taken control of both houses of Congress.

Before the Senate vote, Trump had sought to limit Republican defections, tweeting “a vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!”

Some Republicans who’d expressed opposition to Trump’s declaration, calling it an executive usurpation of Congress’ constitutional power of the purse, ultimately caved. None did so more dramatically than Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who’d said he was “standing on principle” and had gone so far as to write a column for The Washington Post on his opposition.

Yet ultimately, under fire from Trump supporters in his state, and worried about a conservative challenger next year when he faces re-election, Tillis voted against the resolution. The only Republican up for re-election next year who defied Trump was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins—often premier among the voting bloc of “RINOs” within the Senate that regularly oppose Trump from within his own party—famously was the deciding vote in support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That decision, however, drew threats of violence from the Left, calls for the revocation of an honorary degree from a liberal university, and a tweet from former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice that she may challenge the senator next year.

Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.

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