The move sets up the first veto of Trump’s presidency. (Credit Politico)
03/14/2019 11:18 AM EDT
Updated 03/14/2019 04:16 PM EDT
In a 59-41 vote, the Senate approved a House passed-resolution to block Trump from funding his border wall without congressional approval. The GOP revolt will force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.
The Republican defections present an embarrassment to the White House, which sought to limit the number of senators breaking with their party. Some Republican senators attempted to strike a deal with the White House that could have curbed the number of Republicans breaking with the president, but those talks fell through.
Shortly after the Senate vote, Trump tweeted: “I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country.” He further thanked “all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!” Trump urged Republicans to stand with him ahead of the vote, tweeting “a vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!”
But Senate Republicans’ admonishment of the president was a longtime in the making, as Republican senators had urged the president not to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall during the historic 35-day government shutdown. In the lead up to the vote, several Republican said they would support the House resolution of disapproval.
The vote of disapproval over Trump’s emergency declaration comes a day after the Senate voted on legislation to scale back the U.S. role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s bloody civil war, a move Trump has also pledged to veto.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised the Republicans who broke with the president on the House resolution and said he hoped that Thursday’s vote, combined with the passage of the Yemen resolution, marked a “turning point” for Republicans to stand up to the president.
“I’m thankful that Republican Senators did the right thing” Schumer said. “Let’s hope that these votes this week are green shoots. Republicans out of courage, out of principle and maybe out of exasperation are beginning to constrain the president when he goes too far.”
In a statement, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah described Thursday’s vote on the House resolution of disapproval as “a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core” and emphasized his stance was “not a vote against border security”
“I am seriously concerned that overreach by the Executive Branch is an invitation to further expansion and abuse by future president,” said Romney, an occasional critic of the president. Romney said later that he told the president last week of his decision.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee took to the Senate floor Thursday to reiterate his support for Trump’s border wall while emphasizing Congress’ role as a check on the executive branch. Alexander said after his speech that he will support the House resolution.
This declaration is a dangerous precedent,” he said. “Any appreciation for our structure of government means that no president should be able to use the National Emergencies Act to spend money that Congress refuses to provide.”
In addition to Romney and Alexander, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Roy Blunt of Missouri voted in favor of the House resolution.
“This issue was extensively litigated and adjudicated and we had a government shutdown over this,” Toomey said prior to the vote. “I don’t think that the focus of the national emergency act is to circumvent what the Congress and the president agreed to.” The White House did appear to have sway on Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who initially wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post denouncing Trump’s emergency declaration. But prior to the vote Tillis announced he would vote against the resolution, citing recent discussions with the White House to update the National Emergencies Act to curb executive authority in the future.
“The White House has been very gracious and I should say very patient given my initial position in working with us and as late as today having the president make a statement that he’s willing to work with us,” Tillis said.
Earlier this week, Lee and Tillis attempted to reach some sort of deal with the White House to try to maintain party unity. In exchange for White House support of Lee’s bill to update the National Emergencies Act requiring congressional approval of national emergencies, some Republican senators were willing to consider voting against the House measure.
But Trump told Lee Wednesday that he would not endorse his bill, leaving skeptical Republicans with few options. He appeared to reverse course on Thursday, when he tweeted “if, at a later date, Congress wants to update the law, I will support those efforts, but today’s issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don’t vote with Pelosi!” But by then, most Republicans appeared to have made up their minds.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who voted against the resolution, said the tweet “might have been too little too late in terms of getting some members to change their minds.”
Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.