WASHINGTON -- The House on Tuesday failed to overturn President Donald Trump's first veto, leaving the declaration of a national emergency at the southwestern border intact despite bipartisan passage of a resolution nullifying the president's circumvention of Congress to fund his border wall.
Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting to override the veto, one more Republican than the 13 who voted for the resolution of disapproval last month. The 248-181 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to kill the national emergency declaration.
All four members of Arkansas' delegation voted against the resolution.
Republicans in both chambers had joined Democrats in passing the resolution just weeks ago, voicing discomfort over the president's intent to divert funding to the construction of a border wall at the border without congressional approval.
The president, issuing the first veto of his administration, called the resolution "dangerous," "reckless" and a "vote against reality."
Trump welcomed Tuesday's outcome, tweeting: "Thank you to the House Republicans for sticking together and the BIG WIN today on the Border. Today's vote simply reaffirms Congressional Democrats are the party of Open Borders, Drugs and Crime!"
By declaring a national emergency, Trump has said he will shift $3.6 billion from military construction to erecting barriers along the southern border. Congress has voted to provide less than $1.4 billion for border barriers.
In floor debate ahead of the vote Tuesday, Democrats insisted that Trump was violating the Constitution's separation of powers.
"We take an oath that we must honor" to protect the Constitution," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday. "The choice is simple, between partisanship and patriotism. Between honoring our sacred oath or hypocritically, inconsistently breaking this oath."
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, called Trump's declaration "constitutional vandalism."
Republicans said Trump was merely following the 1976 National Emergencies Act that gives presidents emergency powers and was trying to head off Democrats with little concern about border security.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said Trump was acting against the "radical left in this House that would dissolve our borders entirely if given the chance."
Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., called the veto override effort "a partisan whack job" because of its certain defeat.
The showdown began building last year. Trump's insistence on wall money prompted this winter's record 35-day partial government shutdown, which ended in January. Eventually a $1.4 billion compromise was struck.
Opponents of Trump's emergency warned that besides usurping Congress' power over spending, he was inviting future Democratic presidents to circumvent lawmakers by declaring emergencies for their own favored initiatives.
Democrats had hoped Tuesday that the publication of all the military construction projects that could see funding delays as Trump pursued wall money would sway their Republican colleagues, framing the vote as one that would protect Congress' constitutional prerogative to dictate federal spending and protect key military projects in their districts.
At a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, panel Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said it was wrong to use the Pentagon as "sort of a piggy bank-slash-slush fund." The committee's top Republican, Mac Thornberry of Texas, also said he opposes redirecting defense funds.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the lawmakers that while his department could pay a price in the future for maneuvering around Congress, he was following a "legal order from the commander in chief."
But Trump is not likely to tap military construction funds anytime soon. The political fight over the national emergency declaration now turns to the courts, where a number of states have joined lawsuits challenging the legal merits of the order.
"President Trump can't take taxpayer dollars to build his wall without Congress' permission," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former lawmaker who has filed a lawsuit to block Trump's declaration, said after the vote. "The 20 states standing with us in court are ready to fight long and hard to stop his fabricated emergency in its tracks."
The plaintiffs in the suits, filed in U.S. district courts in California, Texas and the District of Columbia, include California and 18 other states, the city of El Paso, Texas, landowners in the path of the proposed wall, conservation groups such as the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, and advocacy organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Escalating the fight, the Pentagon announced Monday night that it was authorizing the transfer of up to $1 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers to build additional barriers along the border.
That money comes from a separate Pentagon fund aimed at fighting drug smuggling; Trump was able to access the fund without an emergency declaration. Still, it drew sharp objections from Democratic lawmakers, who said the Pentagon had not sought the approval of congressional committees.
It is rare for Congress to override a presidential veto, something that happened only once during President Barack Obama's administration, and Tuesday's outcome was expected. Because the veto override vote failed in the House, it will not go to the Senate -- sparing senators from having to take another vote on an issue that deeply divided Republicans in the chamber.
However, the National Emergencies Act does allow Democrats to bring up another disapproval resolution six months from now, something House Democrats are actively considering. Democrats are also considering trying to include language in upcoming spending bills to restrict the Trump administration's ability to redirect money toward border construction going forward.
Information for this article was contributed by Emily Cochrane of The New York Times; by Erica Werner, Fred Barbash and Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post; and by Alan Fram, Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press.
A Section on 03/27/2019
Print Headline: Overturn bid fails; Trump veto stands