On Thursday, a dozen Senate Republicans joined forces with the Democrats to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration. Following the guidelines laid out in the National Emergencies Act (NEA) of 1976, the Senate passed the bill 59-41. This marks the first time Congress has voted to block a presidential emergency declaration.
Last month, Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border after failing to get the money needed from Congress to build a border wall. Trump’s plan would use the NEA to divert Pentagon funds to build the wall. Republicans and Democrats are divided on the President’s attempt to circumvent Congressional approval.
Senate Democrats only needed four Republican votes to pass the bill but instead, they received 12. This is only a fraction of Senate Republicans but it’s the first indication the GOP could be divided in their support for the President’s plans.
In days leading up to the vote, Trump argued that voting against his national emergency declaration is also a vote against his immigration policies. Before the vote, President Trump told reporters, “It’s a vote for border security; it’s a vote for no crime.”
However, some Republicans feel that the President overstepped his authority. “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,” said Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.
Senator Jerry Moran said in a written statement that while he shares the President’s goal of border security, he believes the President “violated the Constitution” by using the NEA to receive funding.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis publicly stated that he planned to support the bill but had a sudden change of heart on the Senate floor. Tillis, who faces re-election in 2020, said that conversations with White House officials and other Senators changed his opinion.
The House, joined by 13 Republicans, already passed a resolution blocking the emergency funding. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where it is certain to be vetoed.
According to Democratic leadership, the House is expected to vote to override the veto on March 26. However, it’s unlikely either chamber will be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. But Senator Chuck promises that Democrats will continue to force the issue, adding that “…the law allows us to bring it up every six months and certainly we would intend to do that.”