Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall

Few House Republicans appear ready to defy President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE by backing a resolution that would stop his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

As Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.) tees up a floor vote on a resolution to block Trump's unilateral move, most Republicans are set to line up in defense of their White House ally — despite some publicly voiced concerns about his action.

The reasons are both practical and political.

ADVERTISEMENT

With Democrats in control of the lower chamber, Republicans are powerless to block the disapproval resolution, which Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced in the House on Friday morning.

Perhaps more importantly, polls indicate that Trump’s declaration enjoys the overwhelming support of Republican voters, leaving GOP lawmakers no cover to buck the president — particular on his signature issue of border security.

If some have lingering reservations about the move’s legality — or the possibility Trump could use dollars headed toward their districts to construct the wall — there’s little sense they want to invite a primary challenge next year.

“As long as Trump’s popularity with Republican voters remains in the high 80s to low 90s, it’s hard to see how the political laws of nature will change,” said Doug Heye, a former House GOP leadership aide and former spokesman at the Republican National Committee.

Case in point: Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsDemocratic socialist group: Voters lost faith in Democratic Party after 2016 On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday Pelosi announces support for new Trump NAFTA deal MORE. At a town hall this week, the Texas Republican was asked by a constituent if he supported Trump’s emergency declaration.

“No,” he replied to applause in the room, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Williams said he feared Trump’s wall strategy — which taps $3.6 billion earmarked for military construction projects — could steal federal funds away from Fort Hood in his central Texas district.

His response triggered a wave of headlines highlighting Williams’s opposition to Trump; Democrats pointed to Williams as evidence that even his usual supporters believed the president had gone too far. But just hours after his appearance in Bee Cave, Texas, the congressman posted a series of tweets making absolutely clear that he was in Trump’s corner and would not be joining the Democrats in their resolution of disapproval.

Trump took executive action, Williams argued, because Congress failed to adequately secure the border. And he said acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE had assuaged some of his concerns by pledging that military housing money would not be touched by the Trump administration.   

“I fully support @POTUS’ efforts to secure the border — including using an emergency declaration — following the clear intentions of the Democrats to simply kick the can down the road and play politics with the safety of Americans,” Williams tweeted.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier this month, five House Republicans with military bases in their backyards — Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats MORE (N.C.), Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDemocrats don't expect to do 2020 budget The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (Okla.), Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerCNN analyst says GOP lawmaker 'mansplained' to her on-air Meadows says Republican colleagues 'wrong' for suggesting Trump's phone call was inappropriate Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy MORE (Ohio), Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornOvernight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Overnight Energy: Democrats grill BLM chief over plans to move headquarters | EPA moves to end its use of animal testing | Top NOAA official defends Trump over Alabama forecast MORE (Colo.) and Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsFormer Rep. Chris Collins sentenced to 2 years in prison for insider trading GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Democrats running to replace Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins vow to support ethics package MORE (N.Y.) — sent a joint letter pleading with Trump not to use previously allocated military-construction funds to build his wall. But none have pledged to sign onto the Democratic resolution.   

Former Armed Services Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown GOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: 'Those are just statements' MORE (R-Texas) has also been apprehensive about Trump's plan to “reprogram” military funding to build his long sought border wall. Such a shift, he warned, “would have detrimental consequences for our troops.”

Yet Thornberry, too, is placing much of the blame on the Democrats, accusing them of “stonewalling” on wall funding for political ends — a signal that he’s hardly prepared to endorse a formal rebuke of the president.

Even Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts MORE (R-Texas), a border-district immigration reformer who’s warning that Trump’s declaration “sets a terrible precedent,” is dodging questions about whether he’ll support the disapproval resolution.

“I'm always open to making sure that Congress takes back some of this power as a coequal branch of government,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday. “And I'm sure there's going to be a lot of conversations.”

Across the Capitol, the dynamics are different. Senators represent entire states, not smaller districts gerrymandered into partisan enclaves. And there’s plenty of pressure on some GOP senators to support the disapproval resolution when it’s sent over by the House.

The Hill identified 10 GOP senators who could break with Trump on the issue, including Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Nadler calls Trump a 'dictator' on Senate floor MORE (Alaska), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Senate braces for bitter fight over impeachment rules Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (N.C.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (Colo.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Lindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden Senators push Pentagon on Syria strategy after withdrawal uproar, Soleimani strike MORE (Utah).

But it’s far from clear the measure stopping Trump’s emergency declaration will clear the Senate.

So far, the only Republican in Congress vowing to join Democrats is centrist Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE of Maine. She is expected to face a tough reelection in 2020 and has said she both supports a lawsuit challenging the president’s action and will vote for the Democratic-led resolution.

The disapproval resolution is deemed “privileged” under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which both guarantees a vote in the Senate and precludes opponents from blocking it with a filibuster. That means Senate Democrats, who are expected to stand together, will need to win support from at least three additional Republicans to send the resolution to Trump, who has vowed a swift veto. Neither chamber is expected to reach the two-thirds majority threshold to override a veto.

Following Pelosi’s lead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge Liberal super PAC to run digital ads slamming Trump over Medicare comments MORE (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that his caucus will soon roll out an identical companion resolution to the House legislation to stop Trump.  

“This issue transcends partisan politics, and I urge all senators — Democrats and Republicans — to support this resolution to terminate the president’s emergency declaration when it comes up for a vote in the Senate,” Schumer said Thursday.

Announced last Friday, Trump’s emergency declaration came after a months-long budget standoff over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for new wall construction — a non-starter for Democrats. The impasse led to a five-week government closure, the longest in the country’s history, and GOP leaders — hoping to avoid another damaging shutdown — pressured Trump last week to sign a spending package without the wall funding.

The emergency order was Trump’s way to work around Congress, empowering the president to build the wall using funds from other programs. Aside from the $3.6 billion in military construction projects, he also intends to use $601 million from the Treasury Department’s Asset Forfeiture program and $2.5 billion from an anti-drug program under the Pentagon.

Some of the Republican critics joined Democrats in deriding the unilateral move as simply unconstitutional, as Congress has sole power to direct where taxpayer dollars are spent.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashSanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (R-Mich.) has been especially vocal in condemning Trump’s action. Not only is there no emergency, Amash argues, but Trump is overstating the powers lent him by the National Emergencies Act.

“A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act,” he tweeted. “@POTUS @realDonaldTrump is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system.”

Amash frequently breaks with his party on thorny questions related to constitutional powers. He has not said how he’ll vote on Castro’s disapproval resolution. 

This story was updated at 9:37 a.m.