House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration

The House passed legislation Tuesday to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir 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 CastroThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power Warren campaign hires two top Castro staffers Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants 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 PelosiFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Democrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Texas AFL-CIO endorses Cuellar's primary challenger 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 JeffriesJeffries, Nadler showcase different NY styles in Trump trial Hakeem Jeffries tells Senate in impeachment proceedings they should subpoena Baseball Hall of Fame after Jeter vote Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership 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 KinzingerPentagon exodus extends 'concerning,' 'baffling' trend of acting officials in key roles Republican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill 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 HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate 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 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 (Mich.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold Massie2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week NY Times's Haberman: Trump 'surprised' Iranian strike wasn't 'more of a unifying event' MORE (Ky.), who frequently clash with GOP leaders on separation-of-power issues; there were the moderate centrists — including Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikJeffries, Nadler showcase different NY styles in Trump trial The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules White House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team MORE (N.Y.), Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Bipartisan lawmakers call for watchdog probe into government telecom office Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills MORE (Ore.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersKoch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban House Ethics Committee finds McMorris Rodgers misused official resources MORE (Wash.) — who agreed with the Democrats’ legal argument that Trump is abusing his powers. And there was 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 (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 RooneyOvernight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides 2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week MORE (Fla.), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements The rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 The Memo: Impeachment's scars cut deep with Trump, say those who know him MORE (Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements Democrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday MORE (Wash.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements House revives agenda after impeachment storm Former Pennsylvania Rep. Fitzpatrick dead at 56 MORE (Pa.), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerHouse votes to impeach Trump House impeaches Trump for abuse of power Judiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings MORE (Wis.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGOP lawmaker: New sanctions provide 'offramp' from rising US-Iran tensions GOP Congressman reacts to Trump's address Hillicon Valley: DHS warns of Iranian cyber threats | YouTube updates child content policy | California privacy law takes effect | Tech, cyber issues to watch in 2020 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 CollinsDemocrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court MORE (Alaska) and 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.) — 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 ScaliseThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' 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.”