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 TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE over his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: Jobless rate exceeds 20 percent in three states | Senate goes on break without passing small business loan fix | Biden pledges to not raise taxes on those making under 0K Senate leaves for break without passing Paycheck Protection Program fix McConnell in talks with Gardner to allow Senate to take Memorial Day recess 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 BluntSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day GOP senators: More relief needed now Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care 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 LeeWhite House withdraws ATF nominee after GOP pushback Hillicon Valley: Commerce announces new Huawei restrictions | Russian meddling report round five | Google's ad business in spotlight Justice Department signals opposition to Senate's surveillance bill 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 CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives 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 AlexanderSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill Five unanswered questions on COVID-19 and the 2020 election 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.