WASHINGTON — The United States Senate just sent President Trump its second stunning rebuke in as many days when a flock of Republicans joined Democrats in disapproving Trump’s emergency declaration over his border wall. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk, where it faces a promised veto, Trump’s first.
The 12 Republicans who voted to block Trump from redirecting funds to pay for the border wall say they’re standing up for Congress and its constitutional authority to control spending.
“These votes are a really stunning rebuke to Trump, and a powerful signal that Republicans are smelling the coffee and saying we can read election results,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The vote caps weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with Vice President Mike Pence being deployed to the Capitol numerous times, and a group of Republicans visiting the White House Wednesday, to try to urge Trump to back down. In the end, the floodgates of Republican opposition were blown wide open ahead of the vote.
“The president, in my judgement, is usurping congressional authority to appropriate funds,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters at the Capitol.
The vote to rescind Trump’s emergency declaration came the day after the Senate voted to use the War Powers Act of 1973 to end U.S. military support for the Yemen civil war, which was also a stunning slap in the face to Trump by many in his own party. Still, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) says these aren’t personal battles but rather sweeping policy debates.
“The president sees this as a vote on border security, and I can understand his perspective,” he said. “But in my opinion, the Republican votes that oppose him are not based on border security. They’re really based on separation of powers.”
A group of Republican senators tried until the last minute to get Trump to agree to amend the Emergency Powers Act, passed back in the 1970s, in exchange for a vote against the measure. That fizzled after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw cold water on the idea, which would have to head back for a House vote.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Majority Whip, called the move shortsighted, telling VICE News it was a missed chance for Congress to “take more power back.”
That’s why even some Republicans who voted with Trump are hoping to revive the effort that was led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Earlier in the week Sen. Kevin Kramer (R-N.D.) gave a speech in a closed-door Republican conference meeting and hailed Lee’s effort as “noble,” even if he sided with Trump.
“I just think that wrestling Article 1 control back is something that we ought to be about. It’s gotten out of balance. I don’t think there’s any question,” Kramer told VICE News outside the Capitol.
For Democrats, it’s a major victory in what’s still the beginning of a bitterly divided Congress. They hope this week’s votes send a message to Trump that he has to work with lawmakers, and they hope it sends a message through the party’s rank and file.
“It highlights the importance of the design of our democracy, that we are going to have three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said. “This is not about power; it’s about the abuse of power.”
The bill now heads to the president's desk. He's already said what he'll do with it.
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a meeting with Leo Varadkar, Ireland's prime minister, not pictured, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg)