Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE is pressing Republican senators in a last-ditch effort to win votes against a measure disapproving of his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border. 

Trump is going to lose the Senate vote later this week, but the White House wants to keep the tally as low as possible and the president is now putting skin in the game trying to sway undecided GOP lawmakers. 

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“We talk to a number of members every single day, certainly at the presidential and the staff level, and we’re going to continue to engage with them in this process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday. 

Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCongress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law MORE (R-S.D.) said “the president and the White House and some of our members are still discussing the path forward and hoping we get kind of a resolution.” 

A senior Senate Republican aide said the White House is “very involved” in trying to come up with a solution to avoid an embarrassing vote later this week. 

Vice President Pence, White House legislative affairs director Shahira Knight and a senior attorney for the Department of Justice are leading the outreach to Senate Republicans, the source said. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, and as many as 15 GOP senators have expressed strong misgivings about Trump stepping on their power of the purse by declaring a national emergency after Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border barriers. Even Republican senators who have announced they will support the resolution to block Trump’s national emergency are coming under pressure. 

“I am being lobbied on the issue,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight 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' MORE (Maine), the first Republican to announce her support for the measure, adding that she’s not going to change her mind. “I came out very, very early on this issue because to me it was such a clear-cut constitutional issue.”

Republicans led by Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight 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 Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Pa.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonScott Walker considering running for Wisconsin governor or Senate: report GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray MORE (Wis.) are trying to craft an alternate resolution that would express support for Trump’s desire to build border barriers while discouraging him or future presidents from declaring national emergencies to circumvent Congress. 

No proposal, however, has yet emerged to compete with the main disapproval resolution, and some Republicans question the wisdom of voting on a second measure rebuking Trump’s action that could secure even more GOP votes. 

“There’s no consensus on that yet,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team.

Another Republican lawmaker involved in the talks said “a lot would have to fall in place in a politically charged environment to find a solution,” expressing pessimism about the possibility of a GOP alternative to compete with the disapproval resolution.

Separately, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Utah) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen GOP senators introduce bill to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Ind.) are backing a proposal that would rein in the president’s power to declare a national emergency by requiring Congress to vote on extending such a declaration beyond 30 days. 

But Cornyn said any vote on this measure “would be a subsequent legislative matter.”   

Trump has stepped up his public pressure on senators, warning they will be seen as weak on border security if they vote with Democrats. 

“Republican Senators have a very easy vote this week. It is about Border Security and the Wall (stopping Crime, Drugs etc.), not Constitutionality and Precedent. It is an 80% positive issue. The Dems are 100% United, as usual, on a 20% issue, Open Borders and Crime. Get tough R’s!” he tweeted on Monday. 

A large number of Republican defections would generate a spate of negative news stories about Trump losing his grip on the Senate GOP conference and could bolster legal arguments that his action is unconstitutional. This could be the biggest impact of the disapproval vote, as it’s clear the measure doesn’t have enough support in either chamber to overcome a veto. The House passed its disapproval resolution 245-182 behind a united Democratic caucus and 13 Republican defections. 

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One Republican swing vote, Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Meghan McCain: My father would find it 'hilarious' Trump is 'jealous of him' MORE (Ga.), who is concerned about Trump overstepping his constitutional authority, said he’s more likely to vote his conscience since the disapproval resolution won’t survive a veto. 

“Whatever you vote, it’s probably going to die somewhere in the process after it leaves here. So I want the vote to be representative of what I believe we need to do,” he said. “It’s all about the signal that you send.”  

Isakson said “some people” from the administration have contacted him.

Republican senators are telling the administration that it has enough money to fulfill Trump’s request from last year to spend $5.7 billion on border barriers and doesn’t need to resort to the emergency declaration. But that argument has been undercut by strong Democratic opposition to the White House’s newest budget request for $8.6 billion for border barrier construction in fiscal 2020. 

The request includes $5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion for the Department of Defense’s military construction fund. It would go toward plans to build barriers along 722 miles of border.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight MORE (R-W.Va.), the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, says it will be difficult to get Democrats to agree to any new money for border barriers in this year’s spending bills. 

“We’ll have to see. I would just conjecture this reach by the president probably will cloud some of our ability to appropriate on homeland security for the wall,” she said of Trump’s emergency declaration.  

Democrats say Trump’s request is a non-starter. 

“The recklessness of the Trump budget is underscored by its inclusion of $8.6 billion in border wall funding, an egregious waste of money that does nothing to make our country safer,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave Bottom Line Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending MORE (D-N.Y.). 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses RNC says it raised .6 million in February Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 MORE (I-Vt.), the Senate Budget Committee’s ranking member who is also running for president, said “we don’t need billions of dollars for a wall that no one wants.” 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back, arguing that Trump’s emergency declaration and budget request are necessary to protect the nation. 

“He’s doing what Congress should be doing. He took an oath of office and he has a constitutional duty to protect the people of this country. We have a humanitarian and national security crisis at our border,” she said. 

Russell Vought, the acting White House budget director, on Monday dismissed a question about whether Trump might take additional executive action to fund the border wall if Congress fails to provide any more money. One option could be to use emergency defense funds appropriated through the Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations fund.

“Right now we are focused on spending the money that Congress gave us in the last appropriations bill and the money that we have identified as part of declaring a national emergency,” he said. 

“This $8.6 billion is geared toward what we would need in addition to complete that wall,” he added.  

Niall Stanage contributed.