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 TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy 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 PaulSecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill MORE (R-Ky.) predicted that votes in support of the measure could reach the high 50s, despite pressure from the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 McConnellObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy 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 ThuneWhat Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump contradicts CDC director on vaccine, masks MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator. “You’ve got a short window here for something to come together.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“They want us to vote against the resolution of disapproval,” added Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Airline job cuts loom in battleground states 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 PortmanRomney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery House passes B bill to boost Postal Service MORE (Ohio), 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 (Pa.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisWhat Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Airline job cuts loom in battleground states MORE (N.C.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response Now is the time to renew our focus on students and their futures MORE (Tenn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package McConnell tries to unify GOP Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump 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 BluntCDC tells Congress it urgently needs billion for vaccine distribution On The Money: Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package | Communities of color hit hardest financially by COVID-19 | Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package 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 CollinsSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies McConnell says Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg will get Senate vote 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.”