Senate GOP eyes big vote against Trump

Opposition to President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s emergency border declaration is snowballing in the Senate, forcing Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch 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) MoranEpstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Bottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (Kan.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHouse votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship MORE (Ind.), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets Trump steps up attacks on 'Squad' after post-rally furor Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (Utah), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseJeffrey Epstein denied bail Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers Some good advice for Democrats to ignore in 2020 MORE (Neb.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz: 'Fox News went all in for Trump' 2 Republican senators introduce resolution to label antifa as domestic terrorists Ted Cruz: Trump's chances of winning reelection are '50-50' MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin MORE (Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Trump may intervene in Pentagon cloud-computing contract: report Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp 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 CornynGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school 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 NielsenTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities 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 AlexanderFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care 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.