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 TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip 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 CastroHouse Democrats reintroduce bill addressing diversity at State Department Julian Castro joins NBC and MSNBC as political analyst Exclusive: Democrat García will not back reconciliation without immigration 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.

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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 PelosiDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 AmashAmash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' 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.

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“I would say it’s a national emergency,” Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyRon Johnson: 'I may not be the best candidate' for 2022 midterms Milwaukee alderwoman launches Senate bid Wisconsin Rep. Gallagher raises nearly 5K amid Senate speculation MORE (R-Wis.) told CNN Monday.

“But I do get concerned,” he continued. “Will a President Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren: Canceling K in student debt could 'transform an entire generation' 10 books that take readers inside the lives of American leaders Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal 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 CollinsTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Senate falling behind on infrastructure 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 MurkowskiBiden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Schumer sets up Wednesday infrastructure showdown 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 McConnellS.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Business groups urge lawmakers to stick with bipartisan infrastructure deal 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 GrahamSenate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform 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.