President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll We must do more to protect American Jews 6 in 10 say they would back someone other than Biden in 2024: Fox News poll MORE on Friday issued the first veto of his presidency, stymying Congress’s attempt to block him from obtaining funds for his wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without lawmakers’ approval.
Trump vetoed a resolution of disapproval of his emergency declaration that passed the House and the Senate. The measure won support from both parties, including 12 Senate Republicans, in what was seen as a significant rebuke of the president.
In an Oval Office ceremony, Trump said Americans would be put at risk if the “dangerous” and “reckless” resolution became law.
“Today I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it,” Trump said.
The resolution of disapproval will now return to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to hold a vote on March 26 on overriding Trump’s veto, according to a leadership aide. But leaders lack the two-thirds support of the chamber necessary to pass the bill over the president’s objections.
The 59-41 vote in the Senate on Thursday marked the first time Congress has voted to block a president’s emergency declaration. The House passed the measure last month by a vote of 245-182.
Trump’s move capped off weeks of conflict with members of both parties over the wall, an issue that will play a key role in his 2020 reelection race.
Opponents of the national emergency declaration denounced it as a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers. But Trump framed the vote as a referendum on his immigration agenda, rather than his presidential authority.
“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” the president said of the situation on the southern border.
Trump also said anyone voting to overturn the national emergency is voting “against reality” and asserted that Republican voters were “overwhelmingly” against the resolution.
Trump signed the veto at a made-for-television ceremony flanked by Vice President Pence, Cabinet members, law enforcement officials and others. He handed the pen he used to a so-called “angel mom” whose son was killed by a person living illegally in the U.S., telling family members “they will not have died in vain.”
Despite the veto, the battle over the emergency will continue in court where a number of states and advocacy groups have sued to stop it.
“Even members of President Trump’s own party are beginning to realize that he is a one-man constitutional crisis,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups challenging the order. “The president’s veto is as meaningless as his signature on the national emergency declaration. Congress has rejected the president's declaration, and now the courts will be the ultimate arbiter of its legality.”
Attorney General William Barr said the order is “clearly authorized under the law and consistent with past precedent.” He added the situation at the border “is exactly the type of situation the president is allowed to address” under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which formalized the president’s emergency powers.
GOP senators voting against the president said the constitutional issues created by the emergency declaration were too great to ignore.
“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 Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.), who is not seeking reelection. “Our nation’s founders gave to Congress the power to approve all spending so that the president would not have too much power.”
The president said he has sympathy for members of his own party who felt compelled to vote for the resolution and that he did not pressure any GOP senators, even though White House officials have said Trump spent time phoning and meeting with them ahead of the vote.
“They’re doing what they have to do, and I put no pressure on anybody,” he said. “I actually said, ‘I could have gotten some of them to come along.’ I said, ‘I want for you to vote your heart. Do want you want to do. I’m not putting any pressure.’”
During his first two years in office, Trump held firm control over congressional Republicans who did little to challenge his authority under one-party rule. But this week’s vote, combined with the Senate’s passage of a resolution against U.S. involvement in Yemen, showed some GOP lawmakers are willing to buck Trump in order to claw back powers of the legislative branch.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerForced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure MORE (D-N.Y.) also criticized Trump’s veto, saying “it is no surprise that the president holds the rule of law and our Constitution in minimal regard.”
“There is no emergency,” Schumer said in a statement. “While the president has chosen to trample all over the Constitution, we Democrats in the Senate will never stop defending our country from an overreaching president.”
— Updated at 4:54 p.m. Cristina Marcos contributed.