Senate GOP eyes big vote against Trump

Opposition to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE’s emergency border declaration is snowballing in the Senate, forcing Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? MORE (R-Ky.) to scramble for a way to avoid a major embarrassment for the president. 

While McConnell has long viewed a resolution of disapproval backed by Democrats as likely to pass the Senate, support for the measure is growing. Some senators and aides say they think it could get as many as 15 Republican votes, which would put it in striking distance of a veto-proof majority.

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“Members of the Senate ought to have a real problem and not be flippant about allowing the president so blatantly to go around the Article I power of the purse. This is what separates us from the rest of the world. We have a rule of law,” said a GOP senator who put the high-water mark for Republican support at 15 senators.

New names surfacing as possible defectors on next week’s vote include Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranPompeo pressed on possible Senate run by Kansas media Jerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Olympic athletes in response to abuse scandals MORE (Kan.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (Ind.), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration MORE (Utah), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC Trump endorses Sasse in 2020 race MORE (Neb.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzProspects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Ted Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report 2020 Democrats call for Kavanaugh to be impeached MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDemocratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks MORE (Wis.), who all have expressed constitutional concerns in recent days, say colleagues.  

In the House, there’s little chance that opponents can get close to a two-thirds majority, but such a large Senate vote against Trump is something that GOP leaders and the White House would deeply love to prevent.

Two of McConnell’s top advisers, Sharon Soderstrom, his chief of staff, and Laura Dove, the majority secretary, are scouring the Senate’s rules and procedures to figure out whether it’s possible to vote on an alternative to the Democratic-sponsored resolution of disapproval.

Republican senators say they want to vote for a resolution that states the president should have sufficient funds for border security. But they also want it to express disapproval of the emergency declaration and amend the National Emergencies Act to require future emergency declarations to expire after a period of time unless Congress votes to approve them. 

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“I believe we should come up with a resolution or a piece of legislation that would express exactly how we feel, which is we support the president, we do need better barriers,” said Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, after a meeting of the GOP conference Tuesday.  

“At the same time, as members of Congress, we should jealously guard our constitutional authority, which has been given away by prior Congresses,” he added. 

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) is leading one promising effort within the GOP conference to put together a resolution that would express support for Trump having adequate funding for border security while also disapproving of his emergency declaration and possibly limiting future executive seizures of spending power. 

A GOP senator said Young and Lee are also meeting with the parliamentarian on putting together a similar resolution.

“I think people want to find a way to give the president all the money he asked for but yet discourage the use of emergency declarations,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOn The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Texas). 

But the effort faces multiple procedural hurdles. One question is whether such a resolution could provide any new funding for border security. Another is whether it would in fact have authority to amend the National Emergencies Act of 1976. 

It is clear, however, that any alternative resolution would have to disapprove of and unwind Trump’s emergency declaration in order to have privileged status that would allow it to pass with a simple-majority vote. 

Toomey declined Tuesday afternoon to comment on his proposal.

Republicans could possibly hold a vote on a nonprivileged resolution that does not expressly block Trump’s emergency declaration, but it would still allow a vote on the Democratic resolution of disapproval. 

Republican senators heard presentations at their lunch meeting Tuesday from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE and a senior Justice Department attorney justifying Trump’s emergency declaration. 

Lawmakers said Nielsen made a compelling case that there’s a crisis at the Mexican border by noting that nearly 80,000 migrants crossed the border illegally last month, but that the legal arguments from the Justice lawyer failed to move conservatives such as Cruz and Lee.  

The administration lawyer argued that Trump’s declaration is authorized by something passed by Congress, the National Emergencies Act, and is not merely being asserted by Congress, according to lawmakers who heard his presentation.

The attorney also tried to assuage concerns by suggesting that any money used through the emergency declaration would not go toward buying up private land to build border barriers. 

Cruz says that differences of views remain between the administration and the Senate Republicans. 

“We’re engaged in ongoing discussions with the administration,” he said. “The discussions are vigorous but it’s not productive to engage in those debates right now in the press.”  

Lee is circulating a proposal to limit presidential emergency declarations to a period of 30 days, after which Congress would be required to vote to extend it any further, according to a Senate aide. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Liberal group urges Senate panel to vote against Scalia as Labor secretary Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns MORE (R-Tenn.) said “most Republican senators believe” that Trump “should have sufficient funds to do border security.” 

But, he said, “we do not like the [emergency] declaration because it gives the president the authority to spend money that Congress refused to spend, and that’s a violation of separation of powers.”

“We would like to amend the declaration of powers act to say declarations would expire after a period of time — say 60 days, 30 days, 90 days — unless a majority of Congress votes to approve it,” he added.