GOP, White House seek to avoid showdown on emergency declaration

Senate Republicans are in talks with the White House about a deal to amend the National Emergencies Act — a move that could lead GOP lawmakers to avoid a fight with President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE over his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP struggles to find backup plan for avoiding debt default GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries High anxiety hits Senate over raising debt ceiling MORE (R-S.D.) said GOP senators are discussing reining in a president’s ability to introduce future emergency declarations, an idea that has gained growing interest within the caucus in the wake of Trump’s declaration of an emergency to build a wall.

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If senators are able to get a deal this week on amending the National Emergencies Act, GOP leadership is hoping it could impact how some senators vote on the resolution of disapproval blocking Trump’s emergency declaration and potentially even resulting in it falling short of passing the Senate.

“Our members are still having conversations with the White House,” Thune said, adding that there was “quite a bit” of interest within the caucus on amending the National Emergencies Act.

Thune said the resolution of disapproval would likely pass, but that the number of GOP senators who vote for it — which some have estimated could be as many as 15 — would be low, helping Trump avoid a stinging rebuke on the Senate floor.

"I think there are some who are looking for something that would — they would feel comfortable in the end voting against the resolution as long as they had something they could point to that actually is modernizing the underlying statue," Thune said.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP balks at White House push for standalone vote on debt ceiling Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said the hope was that a deal would result in a different outcome on the resolution of disapproval.

“I think so. I think there’s a hope that that could happen,” he said.

A spokesman for the White House didn’t immediately respond to a question about the talks.

One proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeFairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans Overnight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command Senate sets new voting record with Iran war measure MORE (R-Utah) and discussed by Republicans, would require Congress to vote to continue a future emergency declaration after 30 days.

Republicans have been hunting for an exit strategy from the showdown with Trump.

The Senate is expected to vote this week on a resolution of disapproval blocking Trump’s emergency declaration. The measure is unanimously backed by the Senate Democratic Conference and four Republican senators have voiced support, giving it a majority.

Trump has promised to veto the measure, which has already been passed by the House. But Republicans would like to avoid the fight.

Sen. Thom Tilllis (N.C.), one of the four Republicans publicly supporting the resolution of disapproval, said Monday evening that he was in talks with the White House but declined to discuss the substance of his negotiations.

Asked by The Hill on Tuesday about amending the National Emergencies Act, Tillis said getting a deal would change how he votes on the resolution of disapproval.

If Tillis changes his vote and Republicans don't have any other defections, that would lead to a 50-50 tie and allow Vice President Pence to cast a vote that prevents it from passing the Senate.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans make U-turn on health care Children urge Congress to renew funds for diabetes research Justice Democrats issues 3 new endorsements for progressive candidates MORE (Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans MORE (Ky.), two of the other GOP yes votes, indicated Tuesday that a deal on amending a president's emergency powers wouldn't change how they view the current emergency declaration. 

"The issue before us isn't affected by amending the law in the future, so it does not change my views," Collins said.

Roughly a dozen Republican senators remain on the fence about the House-passed resolution, raising concerns that the number of GOP "yes" votes could hit double digits, which would be an embarrassing setback for Trump. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.), who is undecided, said on Tuesday that there have been discussions on amending the National Emergencies Act.

“I’m listening to it. I would like to be able to support the president and my oath to the Constitution, as would many other Republicans,” he said.

Asked if a deal on amending a president’s emergency powers would impact how he voted on the resolution of disapproval he demurred. 

“There are many ideas being discussed,” he said.

Updated at 1:44 p.m.