WASHINGTON -- The Republican-run Senate on Thursday firmly rejected President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border.
The Senate voted 59-41 to cancel Trump's February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion more for border barriers than Congress had approved. Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in defying Trump.
With the Democratic-controlled House's approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump, who has vowed to veto the measure. Approval votes in both the Senate and House fell short of the two-thirds majorities that would be needed for an override to succeed.
"VETO!" Trump tweeted minutes after the vote.
Thursday was the first time Congress has voted to block a presidential emergency since the National Emergency Act became law in 1976.
Republicans who voted against the disapproval resolution, including both of Arkansas' senators, 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.
In an interview Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton said Trump's actions were appropriate.
"I don't see this as a big constitutional clash because the president is acting with the authority of powers past Congresses have delegated to him," the Republican from Dardanelle said. "We do, in fact, have a crisis on our border as more and more people show up with children, often times not their own but trafficked, as a kind of legal force field to get into the country with no questions asked."
Lawmakers have ceded a lot of power over the years, Cotton suggested.
"I'm willing to consider that, perhaps, we should revisit how much power we've delegated as a Congress to the executive branch, not only under the Emergency Powers Act, but under lots of laws that give too much power to the executive branch. But on this particular question, the president is acting with authority that Congress has delegated to him to address a genuine crisis," he said.
Sen. John Boozman was not available for comment after Thursday's vote.
But in a written statement, he defended Trump's emergency declaration.
"A humanitarian and security crisis exists along our southern border that requires immediate action. It is in our national interest to secure the border," the Republican from Rogers said. "The president's use of an authority in existing law will fund the construction of a strong border security system that will be a deterrent to those who seek to illegally enter our country."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also said Trump acted within his authority when declaring the emergency.
"The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real," he said.
Opponents said Trump's assertion of an emergency was overblown. They said he issued his declaration only because Congress agreed to provide less than $1.4 billion for barriers and he was desperate to fulfill his campaign promise on the wall. They said the Constitution gives Congress, not presidents, control over spending and said Trump's stretching of emergency powers would invite future presidents to do the same for their own concerns.
"He's obsessed with showing strength, and he couldn't just abandon his pursuit of the border wall, so he had to trample on the Constitution to continue his fight," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
"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."
SEPARATE GOP BILL
Republicans had hoped to win over enough GOP senators to reject Thursday's resolution if Trump would endorse a separate bill by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, constraining emergency declarations in the future.
But Trump told Lee on Wednesday that he opposed the legislation, prompting Lee to say he would back the resolution.
The National Emergency Act gives presidents wide leeway in declaring an emergency. Congress can vote to block a declaration, but the two-thirds majorities required to overcome presidential vetoes make it hard for lawmakers to prevail.
Lee had proposed letting a presidential emergency declaration last 30 days unless Congress voted to extend it. That would have applied to future emergencies but not Trump's current order unless he sought to renew it next year.
Three other Republican senators also tried to find a compromise with the president. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Ted Cruz of Texas interrupted Trump's dinner with his wife, Melania, at the White House on Wednesday night to share their concerns about the constitutional precedent that Trump had established. Graham said he asked for the meeting because he considered Sasse and Cruz "good guys" and hoped to limit the number of defections.
Cruz initiated the meeting, in hopes of selling Trump on his own rewrite of the emergency declaration law that would restrict funding from military sources, according to a senior Republican aide with direct knowledge of the proposal. Trump summoned a lawyer from the White House counsel's office, who said the plan would strip the president of powers he currently possesses. "No way," Trump told the trio, according to a person with knowledge of the exchange.
"I said there's some people want to talk to you, they have some concerns about the emergency declaration," Graham said. "Hell, if I was him, I would have told us to go to hell."
All three men sided with Trump and voted against the resolution.
Before Thursday's vote, there were warnings that GOP senators resisting Trump could face political consequences. A White House official said Trump won't forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.
At the White House, Trump did not answer when reporters asked if there would be consequences for Republicans who voted against him.
"I'm sure he will not be happy with my vote," said moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a GOP defector who faces re-election next year. "But I'm a United States senator and feel my job to stand up for the Constitution. So let the chips fall where they may."
Underscoring the political pressures in play, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., one of the first Republicans to say he'd oppose Trump's border emergency, voted Thursday to support it.
Tillis, who faces a potentially difficult re-election race next year, cited talks with the White House that suggest Trump could be open to restricting presidential emergency powers in the future. Tillis wrote in a Washington Post opinion column last month that there'd be "no intellectual honesty" in backing Trump after his repeated objections about executive overreach by President Barack Obama.
In addition to Collins, Portman and Lee, nine other Republicans joined Senate Democrats in supporting the resolution of disapproval: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
Ahead of the vote, Trump took to Twitter to goad his critics and insist that defectors would be siding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"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, "but today's issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don't vote with Pelosi!"
Pelosi 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."
Information for this article was contributed by Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro, Catherine Lucey, Jill Colvin, Padmananda Rama, Andrew Taylor and Marc Levy of The Associated Press; by Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner of The Washington Post; by Emily Cochrane and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times; and by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A Section on 03/15/2019
Print Headline: Trump's emergency measure rejected by U.S. Senate; both Arkansas senators vote against disapproval resolution