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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 LeeGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Senators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech MORE (R-Utah), the sponsor of legislation to curb the president’s national emergency declaration power, as well as Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs 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 PortmanWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (R-Ohio) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderPelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump 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 CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Trump: 'Everybody knows who the whistleblower is' Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Ky.), say they won’t change their minds on voting for the resolution. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban 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 senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah 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 IsaksonVeterans face growing threat from online disinformation Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump MORE (R-Ga.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMicrosoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate It's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number Overnight Defense: Top diplomat changes testimony to indicate quid pro quo | Dem offers measure on Turkish human rights abuses in Syria | Warren offers plan to address veteran suicide rates MORE (R-Kan.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ind.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens 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 CapitoHillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senators introduce bill to create 'parity' among broadband programs Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump 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.