Top Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, said Wednesday that they intended to force another vote on termination of the national emergency that President Donald Trump has used to boost border wall spending.
“Bipartisan majorities in Congress have repeatedly rejected diverting money from critical military construction projects to build a single additional mile of border wall. Robbing the Defense Department of these much-needed funds in order to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build is an insult to the sacrifices made by our service members,” Schumer said in a joint statement with Appropriations ranking member Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.
Durbin and Udall are the top Democrats on the Defense and Interior-Environment Appropriations subcommittees.
Under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, Congress can vote every six months to terminate a presidential emergency declaration, such as the one Trump signed Feb. 15, 2019, to trigger the shift of up to $3.6 billion in previously appropriated military construction funds to the Southern border wall project. Lawmakers in both chambers have since voted twice to end the funding grab, but both times Trump has vetoed the legislation and Congress has been unable to override the president.
This week the Washington Post reported the White House plans to shift additional billions of dollars from “milcon” projects to wall-building. The administration hasn’t confirmed the plans are definite or how much would come from military bases, but the reports have nonetheless lit a fuse again on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers can vote again starting Feb. 15, 2020 to terminate the border emergency. It’s unclear whether Democrats will have any additional success this time. On March 26, 2019, the House sustained Trump’s veto; the 248-181 vote was well below the two-thirds threshold needed for a successful override attempt.
But a number of Senate Republicans have been clearly uncomfortable with Trump’s move — both on constitutional separation of powers grounds as well as the potential impact on bases in their home states. On the Oct. 17, 2019 veto override vote, for example, 10 Senate Republicans voted with the Democrats. The vote was 53-36, again well short of the 67 needed to override.
On Tuesday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman, R-Ark., expressed unease about the latest reported shift. Both Shelby and Boozman backed the president’s veto last year.
Shelby said he planned to talk to White House officials in the coming days about the tentative proposal.