House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration

The House passed legislation Tuesday to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders 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 CastroTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order ICE under pressure to release detainees threatened by coronavirus Latinos projected to bear economic brunt of coronavirus 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 PelosiNJ governor calls for assessment of coronavirus response after crisis abates Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus 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 says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Pelosi says House will draft its own coronavirus funding bill Senate closes in on trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus bill 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 McCarthyDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims 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 KinzingerLawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Blagojevich calls himself a 'Trumpocrat,' praises Trump after release from prison Sanders slams Trump pardons as part of 'broken and racist criminal justice system' 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 HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House 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 AmashCOVID-19, Bill Barr and the American authoritarian tradition Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Amash calls stimulus package 'a raw deal' for 'those who need the most help' MORE (Mich.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThe Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast GOP challenger seizes on outrage against Massie MORE (Ky.), who frequently clash with GOP leaders on separation-of-power issues; there were the moderate centrists — including Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikLawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Congress tiptoes toward remote voting MORE (N.Y.), Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns MORE (Ore.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns The myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away MORE (Wash.) — who agreed with the Democrats’ legal argument that Trump is abusing his powers. And there was Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 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 RooneyLessons from the front line — Florida's fight with sea level rise Overnight 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' MORE (Fla.), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran House passes .3 billion measure to fight coronavirus MORE (Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerWashington state lawmakers warn health workers running low on protective gear Pelosi: 'I tore up a manifesto of mistruth' DCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program MORE (Wash.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Bring back equitable access for the Digital Age: Congress must act House votes to impeach Trump MORE (Wis.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGOP lawmaker touts bill prohibiting purchases of drugs made in China Wisconsin Republican says US must not rely on China for critical supplies We weren't ready for a pandemic — imagine a crippling cyberattack 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 CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski pushes Mnuchin for oil company loans Overnight Energy: Trump says global oil production could be cut by 15M barrels | Trump to rent storage space to oil producers | EPA defends move to suspend pollution monitoring GOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC MORE (Alaska) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus 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 ScaliseTop GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid 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.”