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 LeeComey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting Barrett to sit with McConnell and other GOP senators in back-to-back meetings MORE (R-Utah), the sponsor of legislation to curb the president’s national emergency declaration power, as well as Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRomney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Poll: Biden, Trump tied in North Carolina MORE (R-N.C.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Romney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery MORE (R-Ohio) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderPoll finds support for independent arbiters resolving 'surprise' medical bills Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee discusses working-class background Pelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' 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 pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' Budowsky: Senate's Trump Republicans on trial, in trouble Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRon Paul hospitalized in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Rand Paul says he can't judge 'guilt or innocence' in Breonna Taylor case MORE (R-Ky.), say they won’t change their minds on voting for the resolution. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' Schumer rips Trump, GOP over debate: 'How are you not embarrassed?' Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' 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 RubioGOP online donor platform offering supporters 'Notorious A.C.B.' shirts Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power MORE (R-Fla.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' Romney, Murphy 'extremely concerned' about threats to withdraw from US Embassy in Baghdad Schumer rips Trump, GOP over debate: 'How are you not embarrassed?' 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 IsaksonDemocrats ramp up pressure on Lieberman to drop out of Georgia Senate race Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race Lobbying world MORE (R-Ga.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (R-Kan.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate GOP eyes early exit Why the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Ind.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamComey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina Poll finds Trump, Biden in statistical dead heat in South Carolina 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 CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure 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.