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 TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification 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 BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms GOP senator disinvited to Republican event over vote against Trump's emergency declaration Trump keeps tight grip on GOP 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 ThuneSenators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law GOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump We need a national privacy law that respects the First Amendment MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said “the marketplace of ideas is percolating,” while Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left Cornyn shrugs off Trump criticism of 'SNL' 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 senators eye 'nuclear' move to change rules on Trump nominees Senate GOP goes down to wire in showdown with Trump Overnight Defense: Pentagon seeks B over five years for Space Force | Trump says Warmbier comments 'misinterpreted' | GOP bristles at Trump plan to pay for wall 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 CollinsOvernight 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' Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump 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 PaulTrio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program Trump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Ky.) offered his support more than a week ago.

Asked how he would vote, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: Rough road awaits any Trump rival in GOP primary Trump keeps tight grip on GOP The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration 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 AlexanderWhite House proposes limits on student loan borrowing as part of higher education reforms The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution 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 PortmanGOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 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.”