Senate rejects Trump’s emergency declaration as 12 in GOP defect

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON—The Republican-run Senate rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border on Thursday, setting up a presidential veto.

The rejection was a conspicuous rebuke for the president as he tested how boldly he could ignore Congress in pursuit of his highest-profile goal.

Construction crews replace a section of the primary wall separating San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico on March 11. President Donald Trump is reviving his border wall fight, preparing a new budget that will seek $8.6 billion for the U.S-Mexico barrier.        (Photo credit: AP)

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. Democrats were joined by 12 Republicans in defying Trump in a showdown many GOP senators had hoped to avoid because Trump commands die-hard loyalty from millions of conservative voters who could punish defecting lawmakers in next year’s elections.

Moments after Thursday’s vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: “VETO!”

With the Democratic-controlled House’s approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump. He has shown no reluctance toward casting his first veto to advance his campaign promise to “Build the Wall,” and it seems certain Congress will lack the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override him.

“I’ll do a veto. It’s not going to be overturned,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “It’s a border security vote.”

The roll call came just a day after the Senate took a step toward a veto fight with Trump on another issue, voting to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

Thursday was the first time Congress has voted to block a presidential emergency since the National Emergency Act became law in 1976.

Even 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.

The breadth of opposition among Republicans suggested how concern about Trump’s declaration had spread to all corners of the GOP. Republican senators voting for the resolution blocking Trump included Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential candidate; Mike Lee of Utah, a solid conservative; Maine moderate Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a respected centrist.

Republicans control the Senate 53-47. Democrats solidly opposed Trump’s declaration.

Trump and Republicans backing him said there is a legitimate security and humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. They also said Trump was merely exercising his powers under the law, which largely leaves it to presidents to decide what a national emergency is.

“The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

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 Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The strongest chance of blocking Trump remains several lawsuits filed by Democratic state attorneys generals, environmental groups and others.