Senate GOP goes down to wire in showdown with Trump

Republicans are going down to the wire as they try to find a way out of their showdown with President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE over his national emergency to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Republicans have just days to find a more palatable solution than the House-passed resolution blocking Trump's actions, which is expected to come up for a vote by Friday. 

They are looking for ways that Trump could win more wall funding without using the emergency declaration, a controversial move that has caused angst on Capitol Hill.

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“I think we’re universally for what the president wants to do, but there’s significant concern about using the emergency in this new way that sets a precedent likely in court that future presidents could use,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

Without an off ramp, the resolution of disapproval has enough votes to pass the Senate, and as many as 15 Republicans could vote for it. That would be an embarrassingly high number for the White House, even if a Trump veto cannot be overridden.

Republicans have yet to find a plan that unites the caucus and passes procedural muster with the parliamentarian.

“My sense was we were kind of down to Plan Z. Started with Plan A and found that none of those worked,” Blunt said.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' Lawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said “the marketplace of ideas is percolating,” while Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas) told CNN that there were “great ideas but no conclusions.”

The talks have ranged from amending the resolution to passing a separate standalone measure. Leadership staffers have been deputized to scour the chamber’s rules for help.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden camp feels boost after Detroit debate MORE (R-Okla.), who is undecided on the vote, said the parliamentarian has given them an initial determination that the House-passed resolution could be amended.

“That is the debate right now, what the amendment should look like, if we should have one,” he said. “All the options are out there on the table.”

He added that senators are also talking about alternative side-by-side proposals. “There’s not a resolution on this for us,” he said.

The emergency declaration fight presents a multi-pronged problem for Republicans, who need to agree on alternative language that both supports Trump on border security and expresses their constitutional concerns about his actions.

Asked about making changes to the House-passed resolution, a GOP aide said that the Senate “can amend whatever it wants,” but added that the parliamentarian has said there should be limits on amendments for the resolution to keep its privileged status.  

But Republicans also expect Democrats to force a vote every six months on Trump’s emergency declaration, prolonging the political and legal headache.

Trump has sent multiple warning shots to Republicans, urging them to “stay united.”

He appeared confident on Friday that he would ultimately prevail, telling reporters at the White House that “we're doing fine in Congress. They understand it's an emergency.”

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' re-election would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (Maine), one of the four Republican senators voting for the resolution, predicted that more of her colleagues would come out against Trump, though she declined to speculate on how many.

“I can tell you from talking with my colleagues that many are troubled, even those who are the strongest supporters of the president and his views on border security,” Collins said during an interview with CNN.

Though some GOP senators estimate that the number of Republican votes in favor of the resolution disapproving the emergency declaration could hit double digits, undecided senators have remained on the fence since Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.) offered his support more than a week ago.

Asked how he would vote, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (R-Utah) demurred, noting he didn’t yet know the text of the resolution that will be before the Senate.

“We have to see that before we can say for certain how we’re going to vote,” he said.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, publicly urged Trump to withdraw the emergency declaration, but has not heard back from the White House about his idea.

One possible option under discussion would to get Trump roughly $5.7 billion for the wall, which Republicans support, but also block his emergency declaration. Republicans are also weighing changes to the National Emergency Act, including requiring that Congress affirmatively vote to continue the emergency declaration after a certain amount of time.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting MORE (R-Ohio) said during a conference call with Ohio reporters that he was trying to find an “alternative way” to get Trump funding, including expanding the amount of money he can take from the Pentagon’s counter-drug funds. Trump is expected to take roughly $2.5 billion from that pot, though Republicans have floated expanding that to $4 billion.

Republicans argue that Trump could access nearly $6 billion in funding without needing to declare a national emergency — significantly more than lawmakers think he can use before the end of September, which marks the end of the fiscal year.

“There’s an overwhelming sense in the conference that the president needs to be able to build a barrier,” Lankford said. “It’s just a question of how those funds are used.”