Border rebuke looms for Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' MORE (R-Ky.) isn’t going to use political capital to fight a Democratic-sponsored resolution disapproving of 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 U.S.-Mexico border. 

Instead, the GOP leader will bide his time and pick his battles carefully, avoiding a confrontation with fellow Republican senators who think Trump’s use of the emergency declaration to build border barriers is a policy mistake that sets a bad precedent. 

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At the same time, McConnell isn’t sitting on the sidelines for what’s shaping up as one of the biggest fights of the 116th Congress. He has briefed Trump on what to expect when the Senate takes up the disapproval resolution and has warned the president that he is likely to lose the simple-majority vote in the upper chamber, according to a source familiar with McConnell’s advice. 

This would lead to Trump’s first veto and would generate negative headlines for the White House. It could also hurt the administration’s case in the courts on lawsuits challenging the president’s emergency declaration.

The House is scheduled to vote on the resolution of disapproval on Tuesday. The Senate then must take up the measure within 18 days after House action. The legislation cannot be filibustered.

McConnell is looking ahead to a possible veto override vote, when his chances for success will be much greater as he would need to win only 34 votes to sustain a veto. 

But before McConnell starts whipping votes to sustain Trump’s veto, he will wait to see whether 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.) can pass the resolution through the House with a veto-proof majority — which is unlikely. 

This makes Tuesday’s vote in the House on the resolution a key test of what to expect in the Senate. 

Republicans control 53 Senate seats and would lose the first vote on the resolution of disapproval if four GOP senators break ranks and Democrats stay unified. 

Already, three Senate Republicans — 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.)— say they intend to support the disapproval resolution, and at least a half dozen more are a threat to do the same. Two other likely defectors are Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOvernight Defense: Trump to reverse North Korea sanctions imposed by Treasury | Move sparks confusion | White House says all ISIS territory in Syria retaken | US-backed forces report heavy fighting | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan 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 (R-Colo.), who faces a tough reelection in a state won by Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIf Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report MORE, and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Trump signs executive order on campus free speech MORE (R-Tenn.).

Tillis warned the emergency declaration would “set a new precedent that a left-wing president would undoubtedly utilize” while Alexander, who is retiring, called it “unwise” and “inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.” 

All Senate Democrats are expected to support the resolution. A spokesman for Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change MORE (D-W.Va.), one of the most conservative members of the caucus, said Monday his boss would vote for it. Manchin, who has voiced support for the president’s border wall, represents a state that Trump won by 42 points in 2016.

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Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist and McConnell’s former chief of staff, said McConnell is unlikely to waste political capital on a losing battle and will focus instead on the veto override vote — if Pelosi is able to demonstrate there are enough votes to override a veto in the House. Democrats would need more than 50 defections in the House to reach that magical number and the chances of that are remote at best.

“The most significant early action on this is whether House Democrats pass this with a veto-proof majority. If they fail to do that, this conversation is over,” Holmes said. “If they do, the entire ball of wax would be settled in a [Senate] veto override vote. At that point there would have to be a significant amount of work to ensure that Republicans win.”

He said the “name of the game of the leader” is to “preserve your asks for the right time and if they become unnecessary you probably don’t need to ask people to do things they’re uncomfortable” doing. 

Scott Jennings, a McConnell adviser, said, “My instinct is he personally supports the president and will vote that way, but a simple majority most likely exists in both chambers to express disapproval.” But he said it’s highly unlikely that Democrats will be able to muster 67 votes in the Senate — securing the defections of 20 Republicans — to override Trump’s veto. 

“My presumption is that Sen. McConnell will just let that process play out given the realities and everyone can vote how they feel they need to vote and move on,” he said. 

“It won’t change the ultimate outcome, which is an emergency declaration that winds up being litigated in the courts, and that’s who ultimately makes the final determination about whether the president went too far,” he added. “So few Republicans have to defect in the Senate to express disapproval that I don’t think it would do any good to whip it.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 MORE (R-Texas), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, predicted the resolution will likely pass the upper chamber but will fail to overcome the two-thirds threshold in the House to override Trump’s veto. “It may well end up being a veto override scenario and my assumption is it will die in the House, so the president will get what he wants,” he said.

Asked about the likelihood of the resolution getting a simple majority in the Senate, Cornyn said, “all it takes is four, so you can do the math as well as I can.” 

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (N.Y.) said last week that identical companion legislation to the House disapproval resolution will be introduced “soon” in the Senate. 

A Republican aide said McConnell is in no rush to get to a vote, giving Trump plenty of time to whip GOP senators into line.

The president fired a couple of salvos at the Senate on Monday when he warned Republicans via Twitter not to “get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security.” 

“Without strong Borders, we don’t have a Country - and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart, don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!” he tweeted. 

Al Cross, a journalism professor at the University of Kentucky and a longtime commentator on Kentucky politics, said McConnell has to manage GOP colleagues “who are torn between their loyalty to the Senate and arguably the Constitution and the desire to avoid a vote that could be damaging to both them and the caucus.”

“I think part of McConnell’s argument is probably going to be this is a vote that doesn’t really matter because the issue is going to be decided by the courts,” he said.  

Cornyn, who emerged as a vociferous critic of using an emergency declaration to fund border barriers, on Monday said he would likely vote against the disapproval resolution because of its partisan overtone. 

“I think this is Schumer’s and Pelosi’s way of painting the president in the corner,” he said.

Cornyn, whose reelection campaign was endorsed by Trump last week, said he had not heard from the White House on the upcoming vote.