WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to block President Donald Trump’s emergency action diverting billions to a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump vowed to use a veto to preserve his emergency declaration but the 59-41 vote — which included a dozen Republican defections — represents an unusual rebuke of a sitting president by a Senate under his own party’s control.
Democrats have described Trump’s emergency declaration as simply a tactic for him to get more border wall funding than Congress was willing to provide. And they cast Thursday’s resolution as an important re-assertion of congressional authority.
“He’s obsessed with showing strength, and he couldn’t just abandon his pursuit of the border wall, so he had to trample on the Constitution to continue his fight,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Trump, meanwhile, rejected the idea that any constitutional questions were at play and insisted that the issue was all about border security.
“A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!” Trump tweeted before the vote.
A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
Even before Thursday’s vote, there were warnings that GOP senators resisting Trump could face political consequences. A White House official said Trump won’t forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.
All four senators from Nebraska and Iowa sided with Trump, and most of their Republican colleagues, in opposing the resolution.
That’s despite their past criticism of President Barack Obama for what they described at the time as executive overreach. They objected when he sought to circumvent Congress in areas ranging from immigration to guns.
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When Trump first announced the emergency declaration, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., reiterated his past concern about the need to limit executive power.
Sasse said that while he recognized the crisis at the border, he didn’t “want a future Democratic president unilaterally rewriting gun laws or climate policy.”
But Sasse ultimately sided with Trump and opposed Thursday’s resolution. The freshman senator is up for re-election in 2020, although he has not said whether he will run again.
It’s unclear whether Sasse could face a primary challenger who would make an issue of his past criticism of Trump, criticism that was particularly pointed during the 2016 presidential campaign but that has mellowed since.
In a press release after the vote, Sasse said that there is a clear crisis at the border and that the president has a legal path to respond quickly under the National Emergencies Act of 1976.
“I think that law is overly broad and I want to fix it, but at present Nancy Pelosi doesn’t, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution,” Sasse said.
While Sasse had said little publicly about Thursday’s vote ahead of time, other Midlands senators already had indicated that they would stand with the president.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Thursday cited the need to stem drugs coming across the border. Ernst said she had examined the issue “from top to bottom and bottom to top” and found that the president is acting within his authority provided by Congress.
“What I have been able to learn is that the president does have the ability to do this,” Ernst said. “It is constitutional.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., made a similar argument.
“I believe there is an emergency on the border and therefore he can invoke a national emergency,” Fischer said. “He has that right. Previous Congresses gave him that right. Not just him, all presidents have that right. This is not a constitutional crisis. He’s following the law.”
Trump’s veto is likely to succeed — vote tallies for the resolution in both the House and Senate were short of what’s necessary to override.
All four GOP House members from Nebraska and Iowa backed the president and opposed the resolution when they voted last month. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, supported the measure.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.