Pence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution

Vice President Pence is discussing an offer with Republican senators that could lead to the defeat of a Democratic resolution overturning President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border, according to GOP sources briefed on the matter. 

Under the deal discussed between Pence and GOP senators, Trump would sign legislation reining in his power to declare future national emergencies if they defeat the resolution of disapproval.

Killing the resolution on the Republican-controlled Senate floor would spare the president a major embarrassment and avoid him having to issue the first veto of his presidency. 

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But there is some skepticism among GOP senators whether Trump will actually go through with it. And the plan is hurt by the fact that a bill to curb the president’s power to declare national emergencies won’t come to the Senate floor until after the March recess. 

Pence met Tuesday with a group of Republicans, including Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (R-Utah), the sponsor of legislation to curb the president’s national emergency declaration power, as well as Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (R-N.C.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight 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 MORE (R-Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP senator to donate 2 months of salary in coronavirus fight Senators pen op-ed calling for remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on MORE (R-Ohio) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (R-Tenn.). Lee’s measure would require Congress to vote to extend a national emergency declaration after a period of 30 days. 

Senate Republicans familiar with the offer say there would have to be an ironclad promise from Trump to sign Lee’s bill in order to flip Republicans who currently say they will vote for the resolution of disapproval.

So far, Trump himself hasn’t made any such pledges, leaving the process in limbo. 

Pence made “no commitment,” according to a White House official familiar with the meeting, and only said he would relay the possible deal to Trump.

The vice president said he would be “happy to bring their concerns to the president but made zero commitments,” according to the White House official. 

The White House official noted that Tillis requested the meeting and Pence was happy to attend, emphasizing that the senators “pitched the VP a proposal” and that “he listened and said he’d take it to POTUS.”

The vice president “encouraged the senators to vote against the disapproval resolution and indicated a vote for it would be vote against securing our borders,” the source added. 

A lunchtime meeting of the Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday failed to settle the internal debate over the emergency declaration and the resolution of disapproval. 

“It was our usual circular conversation,” said one GOP senator. “Everyone goes around and throws out proposals and nothing gets resolved.

“There is no plan,” the source added. 

Already Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ky.), say they won’t change their minds on voting for the resolution. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Murkowski pushes Mnuchin for oil company loans MORE (R-Alaska) doesn’t seem inclined to reverse herself, either. 

“No, I think Congress should allocate the money and that’s a very strong belief. It’s also in the Constitution,” Paul said when asked whether he might alter course and vote against the disapproval resolution. 

Tillis, who is up for reelection in 2020 and could face a primary challenger, however, might change his mind if Trump gives a strong enough assurance that he would support future reform of the National Emergencies Act of 1976. 

Tillis told colleagues at lunch Tuesday that he thought Trump was within his power to declare a national emergency to obtain $3.6 billion in additional funding for border barriers, even though he disagrees with the use of that power. 

But there are at least a half-dozen other Republicans who are considered strong possibilities to vote for the disapproval legislation, such as Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioConfusion surrounds launch of 9B in small-business loans Trump officials report billions in small business loans on first day of program Miami Herald: Citadel Securities has set up shop in Palm Beach Four Seasons amid NY outbreak MORE (R-Fla.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump selects White House lawyer for coronavirus inspector general Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans MORE (R-Utah), who say they have already decided how they’re going to vote but haven’t yet announced it. 

Other potential defectors include Portman, Toomey, Alexander and Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic Loeffler under fire for stock trades amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden riding wave of momentum after stunning Super Tuesday MORE (R-Ga.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranRand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate Sinema criticizes Paul for alleged behavior ahead of coronavirus test results: 'Absolutely irresponsible' Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (R-Kan.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate GOP lukewarm on talk of airline bailout Trump, GOP scramble to keep economy from derailing MORE (R-Ind.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (R-S.C.), who plans to vote against the disapproval resolution, predicted that it will get between 50 and 60 votes — enough to pass with the simple majority it needs. 

“It will probably get over 50 but less than 60, I think,” he said. 

Republicans control 53 seats, so the disapproval resolution will pass if four or more Republicans vote for it. All Democrats are expected to support it.  

Paul, who has announced his support for the resolution, said the White House and GOP leaders are stepping up their pressure effort to keep Republicans in line. 

“They’re being beaten upright, so if you see anybody that’s got blood dripping out of their ear, they may be changing,” Paul joked. 

He said there is still “a significant number” of Republicans willing to vote for the disapproval resolution but added “there are a lot of people being bruised and beleaguered. We’ll see.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the only vote expected on Thursday is on the Democratic disapproval resolution. 

“Right now, that’s the only thing that’s going to be voted on,” said Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoState Department under fire as 13K Americans remain stranded abroad Senators balance coronavirus action with risks to health Heidi Klum says she tried to get a coronavirus test: 'I just can't get one' MORE (R-W.Va.) after meeting with colleagues over lunch to discuss the path forward. 

Lee acknowledged that he won't be able to get his bill to the floor before the March recess, which is scheduled to begin Friday.

That means any plan to trade votes on Thursday's resolution would have to wait at least for a couple of weeks.

Efforts to come up with an alternative Republican resolution that would state support for the president’s efforts to secure the border while expressing disapproval of Trump’s emergency declaration have failed to yield a concrete proposal. 

Toomey, who is working on a GOP alternative resolution, however, is still working with colleagues to come up with something. 

Updated at 5:16 p.m.