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Border rebuke looms for Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.) isn’t going to use political capital to fight a Democratic-sponsored resolution disapproving of President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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 PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber 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 CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (Alaska) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump 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 GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.), who faces a tough reelection in a state won by Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonShelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Cruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts MORE, and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes 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) ManchinKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Klain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers 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 CornynPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities 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 SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas 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.