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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure 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 PaulGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending House Freedom Caucus votes to condemn Amash's impeachment comments Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems 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 ThuneHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Senate Commerce chair to renew push for regs on self-driving vehicles Hillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy 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 CornynGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate 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 PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage Companies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers MORE (Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight 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 Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Pa.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisLawmakers call for investigation after census hired registered sex offender Dem Senate campaign arm hits GOP lawmakers over Trump tax law Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the Fifth MORE (N.C.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderIt's time for Republicans to lead (again) on climate WANTED: A Republican with courage Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag MORE (Tenn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeFix the climate with smaller families Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran 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 BluntHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Top Republican says Senate unlikely to vote on any election security bills San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology 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 CollinsDem senator: Many Republicans 'privately expressed concerns' about Mueller findings Congress: Support legislation to defend Medicare home health  The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills 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.”