GOP faces crunch time on Trump border declaration

GOP faces crunch time on Trump border declaration
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans have only 24 hours left to come up with a solution to stop a Democratic-backed resolution that chastises President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE.

The Senate is slated to vote on the disapproval resolution Thursday, and four Republicans have said they will join all 47 Democrats to pass the measure blocking Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans are scrambling to iron out their strategy, hunting for an eleventh-hour escape hatch as they near a showdown with Trump, who has threatened to issue his first veto if the resolution of disapproval reaches his desk.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMellman: Looking to Iowa Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (R-Ky.) predicted that votes in support of the measure could reach the high 50s, despite pressure from the White House.

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“They’re being beaten up right now. So, if you see anybody that’s got blood dripping out of their ear, they may be changing. There’s still a significant number, but there’s a lot of people being bruised,” Paul said about his GOP colleagues.

The White House is stepping up its efforts to sway the dozen GOP senators publicly on the fence and potentially flip the four detractors. Trump urged the caucus to “get tough” on border security, highlighting intraparty tensions on the issue, and Vice President Pence met with a handful of undecided senators Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday McConnell: Senate impeachment trial will begin in January MORE (R-Ky.) said a vote on the resolution of disapproval will take place Thursday and Republicans would go down to the wire as they mull their floor strategy.

“It is no secret that the use of the national emergency law has generated a good deal of discussion, and we’ll continue having those discussions, but it will all come to a head on Thursday,” McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference.

Senators emerged from a closed-door lunch saying their discussions on strategy were ongoing as Trump’s emergency declaration has dominated weeks of private caucus meetings, injecting late-game uncertainty into the Senate’s schedule.

“Both with respect to substance and process, no final decisions have been made, so we’ll see,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial McConnell: Senate impeachment trial will begin in January McConnell: Senate will not take up new NAFTA deal this year MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator. “You’ve got a short window here for something to come together.”

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“They want us to vote against the resolution of disapproval,” added Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling Lighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal MORE (R-Texas) when asked what the White House was requesting. “Some people want to express themselves in different ways.”

A handful of Republicans have been trying to come up with a plan to either amend the House-passed resolution or craft an alternative. But with the vote just a day away, no proposal has materialized.

Senators are also locked in discussions with the White House about separate changes to the National Emergencies Act, the 1976 law Trump invoked to declare his national emergency. Pence met with Republican Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (Ohio), 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 (Pa.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGroup of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' The real US patent 'crisis' Graham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' MORE (N.C.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderImpeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills MORE (Tenn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules Hillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down MORE (Utah) on Tuesday ahead of a GOP lunch.

Tillis described the talks as a “work in progress” but said after the meeting that if they could reach an agreement on revising the National Emergencies Act, he would change how he votes on the resolution of disapproval. He is one of four Republicans who are expected to vote in favor of the measure.

If Tillis flips his vote and Republicans are able to prevent any other potential defections, that would result in a 50-vote tie, allowing Pence to reject the resolution of disapproval.

Republicans are eager to sidestep a showdown with Trump, who remains popular among the party’s base. For weeks they have grappled with how to avoid breaking with the president on border security while also voicing their concerns about the precedent being set with an emergency declaration that could help a future Democratic president force through proposals on issues such as gun control or climate change.

But the White House has an uphill climb if it wants to derail the resolution of disapproval. Members of Republican leadership on Capitol Hill appeared skeptical that even getting a deal to rein in Trump’s emergency powers could pave the way for defeating the resolution of disapproval, suggesting instead it would just minimize additional GOP defections.

“I think there’s probably still enough members” that it would pass, said Thune, asked if a deal on amending Trump’s emergency powers could result in the resolution failing in the Senate.

“I think there are some who ... 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,” he added.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans MORE (R-Mo.) hesitated when asked if he thought a deal could spike the resolution of disapproval, but said he thinks it would help drive down the number of Republicans who break with Trump.

“I think the two things that would be important would be the president indicating his support of that or something like it … and the leader committing that this would be something that would be on the floor,” he said.

In addition to Tillis and Paul, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' Defense bill includes fix for military families' survivor benefits MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPotential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (R-Alaska) have said they will support the House-passed resolution of disapproval. Collins and Paul said Tuesday that they were open to changes to the National Emergencies Act but viewed it as a separate issue because it would only apply to future national emergencies.

“The issue before us isn’t affected by amending the law in the future, so it does not change my views,” Collins said.

In addition to the four declared “yes” votes, roughly a dozen senators have yet to say how they will vote on the measure.

Lee on Tuesday introduced legislation that would rein in a president’s ability to issue future emergency declarations by requiring Congress to pass a resolution approving such a declaration within 30 days.

He voiced concerns about the constitutional issues sparked by Trump’s emergency declaration during a lengthy, rare hallway interview with reporters, but declined to say how he would vote on the resolution of disapproval.

“The time will come when we will be saying what we’re going to do,” he said. “In the meantime, there are other considerations here.”