Trump faces growing Senate GOP backlash on emergency declaration

A growing number of Republican senators on Thursday announced they would back a Democratic resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Opposition from GOP senators snowballed throughout the day, as more and more Republicans announced they would vote against the Republican president over his decision to use an emergency declaration to find federal funds for the wall.

The opponents included Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the 2012 Republican nominee for president who has long tangled with Trump; as well as veterans seeking to back the Senate as an institution, such as the retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

It’s unclear how many Republicans will end up voting with Democrats and against Trump, though it seems possible the total vote could grow to as many as 13. A total of nine GOP senators so far say they will vote against Trump.

{mosads}The vote is slated for Thursday afternoon, and Trump is expected to veto the measure when it reaches his desk.

Here are the GOP senators who have either said they will oppose Trump or who are seen as possible no votes.


Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

Collins became the first Republican senator to announce she would support a resolution of disapproval to block Trump’s emergency declaration.

Even as her colleagues have frantically tried to find an escape hatch from the showdown with the president over the border wall, Collins has given no signs that she will reverse course.

“Nothing’s changed,” she told reporters this week amid talk of a deal that Trump would agree to rein himself in on future emergency declarations in exchange for Republicans killing the resolution of disapproval.

She reiterated her concerns Thursday about the constitutional issues raised by Trump’s actions, arguing that the vote wasn’t about supporting Trump on border security.

{mossecondads}”It is a solemn occasion involving whether or not this body will stand up for its institutional prerogatives and will support the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” she said.

Collins is one of two Republicans up for reelection in a state won by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and part of a shrinking group of moderates left in the Senate. Her state is one of 20 that is suing to block Trump’s emergency declaration.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

Murkowski became the second Republican senator to say she would vote to block Trump’s emergency declaration, and she co-sponsored the Senate’s resolution of disapproval.

Murkowski has kept a low profile in the emergency powers fight since announcing her position. But as a senator who has been in the middle of some of the biggest fights during Trump’s presidency, she’s given no indication that she will change her mind on this vote.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, she has raised concerns that Trump’s actions blur the separation of powers between Congress and the White House when it comes to funding the government.

“My concern is really about the institution of the Congress and the constitutional balance of powers that I think are just fundamental to our democracy,” she said during a Senate floor speech last week.

She added that while Trump has “very, very real and legitimate concerns that need to be addressed … we don’t have to do it at the expense of ceding that power that we have.”

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

Paul told Trump in a phone call nearly two weeks ago that he would vote for the disapproval resolution, describing the vote as a principled defense of constitutional values.

“The Constitution is very clear about some things. Everybody knows from the grade school up that spending originates in Congress and then the president spends the money but only at the direction of Congress,” he told reporters at a press conference.

He noted that “we debated for a couple months about how much money we would spend on the wall” and Congress agreed to provide Trump with $1.375 billion to build border barriers.

Paul said he would support more money for barriers but said it’s clear that Trump’s emergency declaration went against the will of Congress.

He noted the Supreme Court spoke out “very loudly” on executive overreach in the landmark case Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, where it ruled against then-President Truman’s effort to seize private property without authority from Congress.

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah)

Lee, a prominent advocate for preserving the Constitution’s separation of powers among the branches of government, said Wednesday he would vote for the disapproval resolution after Trump informed him that he would not support legislation to reform the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the statute that allows for emergency declarations.

Lee tried to cut a deal with Trump whereby he would vote against the disapproval resolution and urge GOP colleagues to do the same if the president agreed to endorse his bill requiring Congress to vote to approve future national emergency declarations after 30 days.

“We tried to cut a deal, the president didn’t appear interested,” Lee told The Hill. “I’ll be voting ‘yes.’ ”

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah)

Romney became the sixth senator to announce he would support the resolution of disapproval.

Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, has been closely watched since joining the Senate this year after he used a Washington Post op-ed to criticize Trump, saying the president had “not risen to the mantle of the office.”

The Utah senator raised concerns about a national emergency declaration before Trump announced his decision, but had declined to tip his hand about his thinking.

Underscoring the quagmire Republicans have tried to navigate on Trump’s emergency declaration, Romney stressed that he supported Trump on border security but had concerns that the emergency declaration would set a precedent for a future Democratic president.

“I am seriously concerned that overreach by the executive branch is an invitation for further expansion and abuse by future presidents,” Romney said. “Where Congress has enacted a specific policy to consent to an emergency declaration would be both inconsistent with my beliefs and contrary to my oath to defend the Constitution.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

Alexander, an institutionalist, has repeatedly raised concerns about the constitutional and separation-of-powers questions raised by Trump’s emergency declaration, which he characterized as “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the Constitution.”

Alexander is retiring at the end of the current Congress, giving him the freedom to break with Trump on significant votes without having to worry about a primary threat.

After remaining tight-lipped for weeks, Alexander confirmed hours before the vote on Thursday that he would support the resolution of disapproval, saying he had failed to persuade Trump to change course.

“The president’s emergency declaration to take an additional $3.6 billion that Congress has appropriated for military hospitals, for basics and for schools … is inconsistent with the United States Constitution that I took an oath to support and defend,” Alexander said from the Senate floor.

Alexander was part of a group of senators that went to the White House on Thursday for a meeting on trade. He later told reporters that Trump lobbied him during the meeting but was “respectful” about his concerns.

“Of course he did,” Alexander said when asked if he was lobbied. “But he understands and respects that senators may have different opinions.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.)

Toomey told reporters just hours before the vote that he plans to vote for the resolution of disapproval.

“I don’t think the purpose of the National Emergencies Act is to circumvent what Congress and a president have agreed to through duly enacted legislation,” Toomey said as he walked into a Senate Republican Conference meeting to have a final discussion on the vote.

“I think the separation of powers is very important, so I think it was a mistake for the president to use this mechanism to fund it,” he said of Trump’s emergency declaration. 

Toomey had been at the center of talks to come up with an alternative Republican resolution that his GOP colleagues could vote for instead of the House-passed resolution backed by Democrats.

He was exploring a possible resolution stating support for Trump’s border security policies while expressing disapproval for his use of the emergency declaration to redirect military construction funds.

He participated in a meeting with Vice President Pence on Tuesday to explore whether Trump would agree to sign legislation requiring Congress to approve future national emergencies beyond 30 days.

Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.)

Moran announced his position on Twitter in the hours leading up to Thursday’s vote, saying he is in favor of increased border security, just not in the way Trump is pursuing it.

“I share President Trump’s goal of securing our borders, but expanding the powers of the presidency beyond its constitutional limits is something I cannot support,” Moran wrote.

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Portman announced his support for the disapproval resolution shortly before the Senate was scheduled to vote on it at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. 

He argued that Trump has enough money to build a border wall by accessing the $1.375 billion appropriated by Congress earlier this year and accessing a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund and a Defense Department drug interdiction fund. 

He warned on the Senate floor that Trump’s emergency declaration will set “a dangerous new precedent counter to a fundamental constitutional principle” and would likely get tied up in a court battle. 

“I believe the president’s use of national emergency declaration is wrong now,” he said, noting that he also opposed Obama’s use of executive authority to circumvent Congress. 

“I will vote to support the disapproval resolution that is before us,” he announced. 

Portman had been deeply involved in negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans to come up with an alternative resolution or side deal to give himself and other GOP senators a reason to vote against the Democratic disapproval resolution.

He pushed for changing the wording of the House-passed disapproval resolution that would clarify the president has enough money from other sources to build border barriers without resorting to the emergency declaration to grab military construction funds.

He also co-sponsored legislation introduced by Lee that would require Congress vote to approve future declarations.

Those efforts failed to pan out. 


Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)

Rubio, a member of the military construction subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee, emerged as a forceful critic of Trump seizing military base money to help build his proposed wall.

Rubio warned of the impact on military projects days after Trump issued his emergency declaration.

“Just as a matter of policy, our military construction budget is already behind schedule compared to where we need to be for some of our facilities around this country, so I think it’s a bad idea,” he said at a Feb. 18 press conference.

“I also think it’s a bad idea because usually emergency declarations are for situations in which Congress doesn’t have time to organize itself to vote on it. The Congress just had a vote on this and it just expressed itself,” he added.

Rubio has indicated that he made up his mind on the disapproval resolution days ago but held back from announcing his position to give Senate GOP colleagues and the White House a chance to negotiate a compromise.

On Wednesday, he reiterated his concern over the legality of Trump’s move.

“It’s money that Congress specifically appropriated for purposes of construction on military facilities. You could make an argument that it’s legal under the statute, but it stretches it and that’s what people are uncomfortable with,” he said.

Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

Gardner, like Collins, is up for reelection in a state won by Clinton and is viewed as a top target for Democrats in 2020.

He announced shortly after Trump’s decision to declare the national emergency that he was reviewing the decision, saying he was studying the “authorities the administration is using.”

Since then, he’s largely remained mum, routinely declining to answer questions from reporters on Capitol Hill about how he will vote.

Gardner said this week that he was listening to Coloradans and experts in his state as he weighs his vote. He demurred when asked about the message the Senate is sending by breaking with Trump, saying, “I’m not going to speculate. … People agree or disagree with the vote.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.)

Sasse, who’s considered more of an independent conservative and a leader of the right’s Never-Trump movement during the 2016 campaign, is known as a leader on constitutional principles.

But he’s also up for reelection next year in a state where Trump is immensely popular, and some Nebraska Republicans say Sasse could face a primary challenge. 

Sasse warned last month that Trump’s emergency declaration would create a dangerous precedent.

“If we get used to presidents just declaring an emergency any time they can’t get what they want from Congress, it will be almost impossible to go back to a constitutional system of checks and balances. Over the past decades, the legislative branch has given away too much power and the executive branch has taken too much power,” he told the National Review in a statement last month.

Since then, however, he has kept a low profile on the issue, declining to answer questions from reporters in the Capitol about how he might vote on the disapproval resolution.

Sasse made a last-ditch effort with GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) Wednesday evening to reach a compromise with Trump on the president’s emergency declaration power — interrupting the president’s dinner with first lady Melania Trump — but failed to reach a deal.

Updated at 2:39 p.m. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) reversed his position and said he would back Trump’s emergency declaration after this story was published. It has been edited to reflect that change.


Tags Ben Sasse Cory Gardner Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jerry Moran Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Melania Trump Mike Lee Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Rand Paul Rob Portman Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thom Tillis

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