House to push back at Trump on border

House to push back at Trump on border
© Stefani Reynolds

House Democrats on Tuesday are poised to pass legislation blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE’s emergency declaration on the southern border, sending a clear rebuke to the president and his go-it-alone approach to border security.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroRNC reports record .5 million fundraising haul for August Hispanic Democrats announce 'Latina Prosperity Principles' It's legal to tweet the names of all of Trump's donors, but it's probably not a good idea MORE (D-Texas), is unlikely to survive Trump’s promised veto, even if Senate Democrats can find enough GOP support in the upper chamber to move it to the president’s desk in the coming weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT

But by bringing the measure quickly to the floor, Democratic leaders are sowing divisions between Republican lawmakers and their party’s standard-bearer.

They are also sending an unmistakable signal to the White House that, after two years dealing with a friendly, Republican-controlled Congress, Trump and his favored policy agenda will face fierce headwinds heading into the 2020 election under a newly divided government.

Democrats have hammered Trump’s emergency declaration as an illegal “power grab,” arguing that he’s shifting funds in violation of the clear-cut separation of powers outlined by the Constitution, which grants Congress the sole authority to direct where taxpayer dollars are spent.

“The president’s power grab usurps that constitutional responsibility, and fundamentally violates the balance of power envisioned by our Founders,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.)  said Monday in the Capitol.

“This isn’t about the border, this is about the Constitution of the United States.”

Castro’s resolution, just one page long, would kill Trump’s emergency order and prevent the administration from moving funds from other programs — including $3.6 billion in military construction projects proposed by Trump — to expand border wall construction.

Trump had promised a “big, beautiful” wall during his 2016 campaign, and has grown increasingly frustrated that Congress had thwarted his demands to fund it.

The House is expected to pass the Castro resolution easily on Tuesday, in a vote that’s likely to fall largely along partisan lines.

The measure was endorsed by only one Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashTrump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy Amash: 'Bolton never should have been hired' Romney: Bolton firing 'a huge loss' for nation MORE (Mich.), who frequently breaks with his party on issues related to constitutional powers.

And despite some grumbling from a number of GOP lawmakers — particularly over the shift of money out of the Pentagon — Democrats say they expect no more than a handful of additional Republicans to join them in formally rebuking Trump’s power play.

One Democratic aide put the estimated number of GOP defections at between five and 10, and GOP leaders have expectations for a figure in the same ballpark.  

“I think there will be more GOP defections in the Senate than in the House,” a House GOP lawmaker close to leadership said Monday.

Politically, there is little incentive for House Republicans to buck Trump, particularly on his signature issue of border security, which remains an energizing issue in deep-red districts.

The emergency declaration, furthermore, is highly popular among Republican voters.

And even those Republican lawmakers voicing concerns over the precedent-setting nature of Trump’s action appear to be lining up in defense of their ally in the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I would say it’s a national emergency,” Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Duffy explains why unborn child's health caused him to resign from Congress Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback MORE (R-Wis.) told CNN Monday.

“But I do get concerned,” he continued. “Will a President Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument MORE say global warming is a national emergency?  And will, you know, will someone else say, well, the guns are a national emergency?”

In the Senate, the GOP opposition to Trump’s unilateral move has been more pronounced.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine), who’s facing a tough 2020 reelection fight, has already said she’ll support the disapproval resolution when it comes over from the House.

And Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh MORE (R-Alaska) told a local Alaska TV station that she’s “likely” to back it as well.

The measure is deemed “privileged” under a 43-year-old law, meaning it’s guaranteed a vote in the upper chamber despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet MORE’s (R-Ky.) vocal support for Trump’s emergency order.

Additionally, the disapproval resolution will require only a simple majority to pass the Senate, meaning just four Republicans — including Collins and Murkowski — would have to join Democrats to send the measure to Trump.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally who supports the emergency declaration, predicted last week that the disapproval resolution will pass both chambers.

Trump, for his part, has promised to veto the measure if it gets that far.

“Will I veto it? 100 percent. 100 percent,” he said Friday. “And I don’t think it survives a veto.”

Trump announced the emergency declaration on Feb. 15, a day after Congress passed an enormous spending bill to prevent a second government shutdown.

That package included $1.375 billion for border barriers, but nothing close to the $5.7 billion for new wall construction that Trump had initially demanded.

The emergency order will allow him to tap funds earmarked for other programs to expand the construction effort, without explicit approval from Congress.

Trump has said the physical barrier is vital if U.S. law enforcers are to be successful stemming the flow of drugs and violent crime across the border — a message he amplified on Monday.

“To protect our communities, we must secure the border against human trafficking, drug smuggling and crime of all types,” Trump said from the White House, where he was hosting a breakfast with state governors.

“We have an emergency of people pouring into our country that we don’t want — criminals, smugglers. We have drugs pouring into our country, we can’t have it. We can’t have it, we cannot allow this to happen to our country.”

Democrats reject Trump’s depiction of a crime-infested border, citing statistics from Trump’s own border officials in arguing against the national emergency designation.

Aside from Castro’s resolution, which is not expected to have enough support in either chamber to override a Trump veto, Democrats are also weighing their legal options.

“We would be delinquent in our duties if we did not resist, if we did not fight back, to overturn the president’s declaration,” Pelosi said. “To not do that would be to abandon our own responsibilities.

“We do not intend to do that.”

Scott Wong contributed.