House Votes to Block Trump’s Border Emergency Declaration
Video0:010:31Before a vote on a resolution to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked House Republicans if they took their oath from Mr. Trump or “the Constitution of the United States?” The measure passed and goes to the Senate.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the Mexican border, with more than a dozen Republicans joining Democrats to try to block his effort to divert funding to a border wall without congressional approval.
The resolution of disapproval, which passed 245-182, must now be taken up by the Senate, where three Republicans have already declared their support, only one short of the number needed for Congress to ratify a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump’s efforts.
It remains highly unlikely that opponents will muster the votes to overturn a promised veto of the resolution. But passage of a measure to assert Congress’s constitutional authority over spending is sure to bolster numerous lawsuits that maintain that Mr. Trump’s declaration is an unconstitutional end run around Congress’s lawful power of the purse.
“Is your oath of office to Donald Trump or is it to the Constitution of the United States?” Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her Republican colleagues in a speech on the floor ahead of the vote. “You cannot let him undermine your pledge to the Constitution.”
House Republican leaders kept defections low after feverishly working to assuage concerns among rank-and-file members about protecting congressional powers and about the precedent that Mr. Trump could be setting for Democratic presidents to use national emergencies for their own purposes. Ultimately, 13 Republicans defected from the party line to vote for the one-page resolution.
In the Senate, where lawmakers are required to vote on the resolution in the coming weeks, those concerns persisted. Even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and an open supporter of the declaration, declined to offer his opinion on the legal merits.You have 3 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times
“We’re in the process of weighing that,” Mr. McConnell said when asked at a news conference on Tuesday. “I haven’t reached a total conclusion.”How the House Voted to Block Trump’s National Emergency DeclarationMore than a dozen Republicans voted with Democrats to block President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the United States border with Mexico.Feb. 26, 2019
“You can’t blame the president for trying to use whatever tool he thinks he has to address it,” he added.
But ahead of the Senate vote, lawmakers have not said what their next steps would be if the resolution to stop the emergency declaration fails.
Three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said that they will support the resolution, and several others have expressed extreme unease. Vice President Mike Pence and a Justice Department lawyer joined Republican senators on Tuesday for a lunch on Capitol Hill to outline what they maintained was the president’s statutory authority for the declaration.
Some senators emerged from the lunch still reluctant to say how they would vote.
“Any action by the administration must comply with federal law, so I am reviewing and assessing the specific legal authorities and justifications put forth by the administration,” said Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. “I am very worried about the slippery slope that could occur.”
Some Republican lawmakers and aides said they were unconcerned because they were confident that they could prevent the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to override a presidential veto, possibly the first delivered by Mr. Trump.
“There will be nowhere near the votes to override a veto,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, said Tuesday morning at a news conference. “Ultimately, we’re going to stand with the president in making sure we can secure this border.”
The resolution of disapproval, under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, serves as the easiest mechanism for Congress to end Mr. Trump’s declaration. House Democrats are still weighing the possibility of joining one of the lawsuits that have been filed to challenge the merits of the declaration.
Democrats, who overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution of disapproval, framed the vote as an ultimatum on whether lawmakers would buck party loyalty in order to protect Congress’s constitutionally granted powers. Ms. Pelosi, in a floor speech on Tuesday, listed a number of instances when House Republicans had objected to President Barack Obama’s use of executive power, vowing that “we are not going to give any president, Democratic or Republican, a blank check to shred the Constitution of the United States.”Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she would vote in favor of a resolution to block President Trump’s emergency declaration.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
Representative Joaquin Castro called the vote on the one-page resolution “the most important vote, probably in a generation, on the separation of powers.”
Mr. Castro, Democrat of Texas and the author of the resolution, warned Republicans that if the president’s declaration went unchallenged, the issue would resurface.
“If Congress lets this stand, if the courts let it stand, how am I to tell a future president that gun deaths that number in the tens of thousands every year in this country, or opioid deaths that number in the thousands in this country, are not an emergency?” Mr. Castro said in a brief interview. “Or climate change is not a national emergency?”
“If this becomes a short circuit to get other things done,” he added, “then how is a president not expected to use that tool in the future?”
Overruling concerns from other Republicans, Mr. Trump this month outlined his intent to use $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build his promised wall along the southwestern border.
Lawmakers pressed the Defense Department on Tuesday to release details of the funds that would be reallocated and which military construction projects would be impacted.
“We fear that reprogramming funding intended for military construction projects and counterdrug activities will come at the expense of troop readiness and departmentwide efforts to address the military’s aging infrastructure,” wrote Representatives John Garamendi, Democrat of California, and Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, both members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine the effect of the declaration on military construction and readiness, and members of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday in part to examine Mr. Trump’s use of powers under the National Emergencies Act.
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.READ 135 COMMENTS
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