On this day in the Senate, no man a king, not even President Donald Trump.
The Senate passed a resolution Thursday to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration that would have allowed him to redirect up to $6.7 billion from other Cabinet departments toward constructing his long-promised wall on the southwestern border.
The measure passed, 59-41, with 12 Republicans joining all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Conference in rebuffing Trump. The House in February also voted to terminate the declaration.
Many lawmakers used the 18th century analogy of American colonists opposing an arbitrary British king in saying why they voted against the president on his emergency declaration.
All the Republicans who voted to terminate the emergency declaration said they agreed with Trump that the border needed more security. But the constitutional issues took precedence, they said, and it was more important to preserve Congress’ power of the purse than to give Trump a win.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement that he supports border security but not the emergency declaration.
“Never before has a president asked for funding, Congress has not provided it, and the president then has used the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to spend the money anyway,” Alexander said. “The problem with this is that after a Revolutionary War against a king, our nation’s founders gave to Congress the power to approve all spending so that the president would not have too much power. This check on the executive is a crucial source of our freedom.”
But the majority of Republicans supported Trump, even those senators likely to face tough re-election battles.
“There is a crisis at the border and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have prevented a solution,″ said Sen. Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican up for re-election in 2020. “As a result, the president has declared a national immigration emergency, legal authority which he clearly has under the 1976 law, a law invoked 56 times by every previous president since Jimmy Carter. Between October and February, Border Patrol apprehensions were up nearly 100 percent and since 2012, Border Patrol methamphetamine seizures are up 280 percent. It should never have come to this, but in the absence of congressional action, the president did what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer refused to do.”
Democrats were unanimous in voting to terminate the emergency declaration.
“I think it’s a power grab; he doesn’t like what Congress did on the appropriation and so he’s declaring an emergency,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said. “His entire military says it’s not a military emergency, but he’s trying to ransack the Pentagon budget. I don’t think he should be able to declare a nonmilitary emergency and just put a spigot into the Pentagon budget that he can drain this year and next year for however long he wants.”
In January, Trump secured $1.375 billion for 55 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal 2019 spending bill, which he signed after a record-breaking 35-day partial government shutdown. That was far less than the $5.7 billion he had insisted on. However, shortly after he signed the spending bill Trump declared a national emergency to move funding from other departments to construct the border wall.
In a last-ditch effort to strike a compromise between Republicans and the White House, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee introduced a measure earlier this week that would have amended the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to make it harder for presidents to make the declaration.
Under his bill, any national emergency would end after 30 days unless both houses of Congress voted affirmatively to extend the emergency.
Lee voted for the resolution canceling the emergency. “If we don’t want our president acting like a king we need to start taking back the legislative powers that allow him to do so,” Lee said in a statement.
The resolution will now be sent to Trump, who has already stated that he will veto it. Indeed, just minutes after the vote, Trump issued a single-word tweet: “Veto!”
VETO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
Sen. Rand Paul, who voted against the president, said Trump wasn’t angry. “I don’t think he takes it personally,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I think he understands that people have deeply held beliefs on the Constitution on whose prerogative it is to spend the money and I think it’s clearly written in the Constitution that the power of the purse should reside in Congress.”
Congress can override the veto with two-thirds majority votes in both bodies, but that seems unlikely.
“I don’t know; we’ll find out,” Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said when asked if Congress will have enough votes to override Trump’s veto. “But I think we need to make a statement to show that our position and our intent is not to support what this administration is doing. He’s manufacturing his own crisis to declare a national emergency.”
The 12 Republicans voting to terminate Trump’s declaration were: Alexander, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Susan Collins of Maine, Lee, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Paul, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
The Trump administration has repeatedly stated that the government needs to build a wall to assist with humanitarian and drug crises at the southern border.
In February, the Homeland Security Department recently reported, 76,103 people were apprehended at the border, which included individuals who were deemed “inadmissible” or caught entering the U.S. illegally. That’s the highest number of border apprehensions for the month of February since 2007. Within that figure were 36,174 family units and 6,825 unaccompanied minors.
The recent wave of immigrants seeking entry have mostly been from the three Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Flashback: Trump announces national emergency on border, despite likely legal challenge