House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration

The House passed legislation Tuesday to block President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' 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 CastroSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Hispanic Caucus formally endorses George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Technical difficulties mar several remote House hearings 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 PelosiOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' 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 JeffriesReparations bill gains steam following death of George Floyd Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups 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 McCarthyOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? McCarthy to offer bill withholding funds from states that don't protect statues McCarthy calls on Pelosi to condemn 'mob violence' after toppling of St. Junipero Serra statue 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: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Trump faces bipartisan calls for answers on Russian-offered bounties 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 HoyerHouse to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling Black Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill 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 AmashMichigan candidate's daughter urges people not to vote for him in viral tweet Can Trump break his 46 percent ceiling? NFL to close offices for Juneteenth, making it an official league holiday MORE (Mich.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieMassie wins House GOP primary despite Trump call to be ousted from party Rep. Massie called out by primary opponent for previous display of Confederate flag House holds first-ever proxy votes during pandemic MORE (Ky.), who frequently clash with GOP leaders on separation-of-power issues; there were the moderate centrists — including Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (N.Y.), Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (Ore.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersGOP lawmakers voice support for Israeli plan to annex areas in West Bank Trio of GOP lawmakers asks Zoom to clarify China ties after it suspends accounts Bipartisan senators call for investigation of TikTok's child privacy policies MORE (Wash.) — who agreed with the Democrats’ legal argument that Trump is abusing his powers. And there was Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill 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 RooneyRepublicans boot Francis Rooney from GOP Steering Committee Pelosi extends proxy voting into mid-August What to do about our culture of division and partisanship? MORE (Fla.), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerHispanic Caucus endorses Washington Latina House candidate Cornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (Wash.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (Pa.), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerLobbying world House Judiciary Committee calls on Bezos to testify as part of antitrust probe GOP, Democratic senators call for more assistance to local media in coronavirus stimulus MORE (Wis.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director House Republican accuses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube of not doing enough to combat Chinese propaganda 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 CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (Alaska) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Poll: Biden, Trump locked in neck-and-neck battle for North Carolina GOP senator: Russia should be labeled state sponsor of terrorism if intelligence is accurate 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 ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up 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.”