On Tuesday, Democrats pushed legislation through the House to put an end to President Trump’s national emergency declaration. Trump’s intentions were to steer billions of dollars to fund his southern border wall project. If he feels backed into a corner, Trump could be driven to issue his first veto to attempt to defeat the Democrats. The vote was 245-182, with every Democrat voting yea, along with 13 Republicans. Using the provisions of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the vote marked the first time that the House or Senate has attempted to dismiss a national emergency declared by a president. The former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., attempted to do the same thing when former President George W. Bush declared a national emergency, but the issue never appeared in front of the House for a vote.
If enough Republicans in the Senate decide to abandon their roots and support the House bill, then they could override Trump’s veto, as long as there is a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Senate and the House. On Tuesday, the House formally issued a threat of veto, putting pressure on the Republicans to do what they need to do. Since there were 427 representatives voting, the House needed 285 yeas to make the legislation veto-proof, but they fell short. George W. Bush took more than five years to use his first veto, but President Barack Obama only took 11 months. It took Bill Clinton two and a half years.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has stated that he expects that the issue will be in front of the Senate by mid-March. Since three of the Senate Republicans said that they would support the legislation, they only need one more to vote with the Democrats to make it pass and send it to Trump. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters: “When you see the vote today there will be nowhere near the votes to override a veto.” There are many GOP lawmakers who consider themselves to be protectors of the power that Congress has, and they have said that they have no problem deferring the case to Trump, saying that the mid-1970s emergencies statute gives Trump the authority. Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo, has said: “They love Trump in my district. I’m for Trump.” The Democratic leaders claim that the vote wasn’t about the benefits of the wall, instead, it was about Trump “trampling on the Constitution” by putting his hands on money that he couldn’t get through the typical means.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s action “steals billions of dollars” from military construction projects, including child care centers and housing, to construct the massive border wall. Republicans have explained that the problems with the drug runners and human traffickers at the border gave credit to Trump’s actions. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., recently returned from a National Guard deployment at the border in Arizona and has stated: “I went down there neutral on this question, didn’t know whether or not I’d support a national emergency. And, I came back more convinced than probably anybody that this is the right thing to do.”
On Monday, Trump advised the Republicans in the Senate to stick by his side. “If Republicans vote their beliefs, we’ll get a lot. If they vote their party, we won’t get a lot,” explained House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “I hope our great Republican Senators don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security. Without strong Borders, we don’t have a Country — and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart, don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!” posted Trump in a tweet.
During their weekly private lunch, Vice President Mike Pence discussed the issue with the GOP senators. After the sit-down, Republican Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, accused the Democrats of being hypocrites about changing their minds when it comes to what’s really going on at the southern border. “We had a great presentation from Vice President Pence and his team regarding the emergency declaration and the need for additional spending to protect our southern border. The Vice President made a compelling case that the border crisis is real and President Trump has both the authority and legal backing to declare a national emergency,” said Graham. He added: “In 2014, President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis at our southern border because 120,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended. As of today, we have already apprehended 120,000 in Fiscal Year 2019. The problems of 2014 are only getting worse.”
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader from New York, has claimed that Trump was attempting to “bend the law” by declaring the national emergency at the border. He asked lawmakers to “speak up with one bipartisan voice” so they could put a check on the executive branch, just like the founding fathers imagined for this country. “What would stop a future president from claiming an emergency every week?” asked Schumer. The GOP Sen.Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said on Monday that he planned on voting to block the order, along with Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Congress needs to maintain control of the purse and they’ve warned that if a Democrat ends up in the White House in the future they could abuse their power to promote their “radical policies,” said Tillis.
Republican Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, referred to Trump’s order as “unnecessary, unwise, and inconsistent with the United States Constitution and I’ll decide how to vote when I’m presented with something to vote on.” Senate voting on Trump’s order could fall under a procedure that’s barely ever used, which is possibly a first for the chamber, according to an aide. The law allows the committee to review the order for up to 15 days, followed by a full Senate vote three days later. According to Senators, the process could be expedited.
Trump’s longstanding vow to build the 1,900-mile wall at the southwest border is his top campaign promise. Since his election, Trump has dropped the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall. Congress approved a huge spending bill earlier this month that would provide nearly $1.4 billion to construct the 55 miles of border along Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, putting an end to the dispute that led to the 35-day partial government shutdown. Trump has asked for $5.7 billion to construct more than 200 miles of border walls.
When Trump declared the national emergency, it gave him access to approximately $3.6 billion that was meant for military construction projects. Lawmakers from both parties are cringing at the prospect of losing the funding that needs to go to the military bases back home. The Defense Department hasn’t said what projects will be getting the ax if the funding is pulled. The administration is more likely to pull $600 million from a federal asset forfeiture fund before they pull money from the military. They’re also thinking about moving more than $2 billion from Defense Department account into a Pentagon counter-drug fund to be used for the construction of the wall. The federal courts are also challenging Trump’s declaration, especially considering that a slew of Democratic-led states, like California, are suing to overturn Trump’s order. It’s rumored that the house may join in, as well.