House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration

The House passed legislation Tuesday to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE’s emergency declaration for the southern border, marking an unprecedented congressional challenge to a president’s authority to invoke emergency powers.

The resolution passed easily through the Democratic-controlled chamber, 245-182, with Democrats voting unanimously to send it to the Senate. The GOP-led upper chamber is expected to hold a vote on the measure in the coming weeks.

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Republican leaders, who had clambered to limit defections in their ranks heading into Tuesday’s vote, were largely successful: 13 Republicans joined with Democrats to admonish Trump’s move — well short of the number Democrats would need to overturn the president’s promised veto.

Sponsored by Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run Dems prepare next steps after Trump's veto MORE (D-Texas), the one-page resolution would terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, thereby preventing the administration from extending the U.S.-Mexico border wall using funds previously allocated for other programs.

The vote marks the first time Congress has taken formal action to block a presidential emergency declaration since the power was created in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

Democrats hinged their opposition on the basic principles of constitutional law, arguing that Trump’s unilateral move marks a clear-cut violation of the separation of powers and the unique authority of Congress to dictate where federal dollars are spent.

“If it were truly an emergency, we’d all be there with the president,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) said several hours before Tuesday’s vote, during a conference of the American Legion in Washington.

“Our founders had great vision. They did not want a king,” she said.

The wall had been a principal element of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and, as president, he’s offered increasingly dire warnings that new physical barriers are vital in the law enforcement battle against illegal crossings, violent crime and drug trafficking in the border region.

“Without strong Borders, we don’t have a Country,” Trump tweeted leading up to the vote.

It’s a public safety argument that Democrats have rejected outright, noting that border apprehensions have fallen significantly relative to levels of decades past.

“There is no basis in law or in fact to declare a national emergency,” Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' GOP leader needles Dems on anti-Semitism resolution MORE (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said hours before the vote. “President Donald Trump has more stories than ‘Harry Potter,’ and all of them are make-believe.”

Trump had declared the emergency on Feb. 15, just a day after Congress approved — and the president reluctantly agreed to sign — a sweeping spending bill to avert another government shutdown.

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The package included some funding for border security measures but denied Trump’s initial demand for $5.7 billion in new wall construction. The emergency declaration was his way to sidestep a recalcitrant Congress to advance a key policy priority.

Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill were quick to rush to his defense, accusing Democrats of threatening national security by opposing new wall funding in the spending package — and leaving the president no choice but to act on his own.

“What we see happening along the border, the amount of drugs, the amount of deaths in America, the human trafficking that’s coming across, the overwhelming problem there,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide MORE (R-Calif.), rejecting the Democrats’ constitutional argument.

“So, the president has the authority to do it. And we will uphold him,” he said.

Appearing alongside McCarthy and other GOP leaders was Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerBooker, Gabbard to make appearances with Colbert The Hill's 12:30 Report: Cohen back on the hot seat The Hill's Morning Report - Citing probes, Trump says 2020 race has begun MORE (Ill.), an active-duty member of the Air National Guard, who was recently deployed to the border and supports Trump’s emergency declaration.

“I went down there neutral on this question, didn’t know whether or not I’d support a national emergency,” Kinzinger said. “And I came back more convinced probably than anybody that this is the right thing to do.”

Democrats responded with accusations of their own, framing the emergency declaration as a desperate — and illegal — gambit by a frustrated president to get his way.

“People will say, ‘Well, there have been a lot of emergency designations.’ That’s right,” said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Top Marine warns border deployment could hurt readiness | McSally aims for sexual assault reforms in defense bill | House to vote on measure opposing transgender ban | New warning over F-35 sale to Turkey House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts House to vote on measure opposing transgender military ban MORE (D-Md.). “This is the only one — the only one — that has been used to get around a Congress’s refusal to appropriate money for a particular objective.”

The Republican defectors on Tuesday were a mix of several groups: There were the conservative constitutional literalists, like Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashProperty is a fundamental right that is now being threatened GOP lawmaker tells party to 'do better' after O'Rourke St. Patrick's Day post The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Mich.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Trump: I told Republicans to vote for 'transparency' in releasing Mueller report House votes for Mueller report to be made public MORE (Ky.), who frequently clash with GOP leaders on separation-of-power issues; there were the moderate centrists — including Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.), Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans MORE (Ore.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration GOP pushes back on net neutrality bill at testy hearing Hillicon Valley: Dems renew fight over net neutrality | Zuckerberg vows more 'privacy-focused' Facebook | House Dems focus on diversity in Silicon Valley | FBI chief warns of new disinformation campaigns MORE (Wash.) — who agreed with the Democrats’ legal argument that Trump is abusing his powers. And there was Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdProperty is a fundamental right that is now being threatened The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (Texas), the only Republican representing a border district who has long-opposed Trump’s push for a lengthy and imposing border wall. 

Other GOP lawmakers who voted for the measure were Reps. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration A conservative climate plan will build on personal responsibility while reducing emissions 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Fla.), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration MORE (Wash.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe importance of moderate voters Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (Pa.), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Hillicon Valley: US threatens to hold intel from Germany over Huawei | GOP senator targets FTC over privacy | Bipartisan bill would beef up 'internet of things' security | Privacy groups seize on suspended NSA program | Tesla makes U-turn Shuttering of NSA surveillance program emboldens privacy groups MORE (Wis.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Graham to push for US to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel Koch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority MORE (Wis.).

Another major group of GOP critics — the military hawks who were initially furious with Trump’s plan to shift billions of dollars from the Defense Department to build his wall — ultimately sided with the White House.

Under the National Emergencies Act, the Senate must vote on the resolution within 18 days. Because the law deems it “privileged,” opponents cannot filibuster the measure, meaning the Democratic supporters in the Senate need only four Republican votes to send the bill to Trump’s desk.

Passage in the upper chamber is not guaranteed but appears increasingly likely. Three GOP senators — Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Alaska) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (N.C.) — are already on record in support of the disapproval resolution, and a handful of others are leaning that way.

The president, for his part, has vowed in no uncertain terms to veto the resolution if it travels that far. Neither chamber is expected to have enough support to win a two-thirds vote to override the promised veto.

“They’re not going to be able to reverse this emergency declaration. But it does show that they’re in denial that there’s a crisis at the border,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Meadows says Mueller's end proves 'no collusion' House Dem renews call for censuring Steve King MORE (R-La.) told The Hill ahead of the vote.  

“Pelosi goes to the border and waves a Mexican flag saying there’s no crisis the same week that an illegal alien goes to Napa, right in her own backyard, and attacks a cop,” he continued. “I mean, it’s happening every day. There’s a real crisis and the president is taking steps to keep our country safe.”

Democrats are also vowing a legal challenge to Trump’s declaration, either by filing a suit of their own or piling on litigation already emerging from states and outside groups.

For the time being, they’re awaiting the outcome of the legislative battle before playing their legal hand.

Hoyer said Tuesday that, even if Trump’s veto is sustained, it will mark a political victory for Democrats.

“If he vetoes it, it will be another statement of his authoritarian inclinations,” Hoyer said. “So, I think we will have gained something.”