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 LeeHillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE (R-Utah), the sponsor of legislation to curb the president’s national emergency declaration power, as well as Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis trails Democratic Senate challenger by 2 points: poll Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ohio) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran MORE (R-Ky.), say they won’t change their minds on voting for the resolution. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh 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 RubioTrump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign Republicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE (R-Fla.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFormer Bush staffer urges 'fellow Latinos' to vote Trump 'out of office' Lobbying World Republicans wary of US action on Iran 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 IsaksonHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 GOP senator presses VA after veteran reportedly bitten by ants at nursing home GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid MORE (R-Ga.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranPompeo pressed on possible Senate run by Kansas media Jerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Olympic athletes in response to abuse scandals MORE (R-Kan.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R-Ind.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi 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 CapitoThis week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction 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.