Senate

12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration 

Twelve Senate Republicans from different corners of the party banded together Thursday to deliver President Trump the biggest rebuke of his presidency, voting to disapprove of his emergency declaration for the Southern border.

The Republican rebels joined every single Senate Democrat in the chamber in voting to block Trump’s emergency declaration, which grants him access to $3.6 billion in military construction funding to build border barriers. 

{mosads}The vote brought together prominent moderates — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — and staunch conservatives — Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — as well as other Republicans who fall between them on the ideological spectrum. 

The resolution also won the support of three of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) most trusted advisers on policy issues: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), members of the Finance Committee who are considered experts on trade and tax policy, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), an authority on a range of topics.

It also won the last-minute support of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and a member of McConnell’s elected leadership team. 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has emerged as a counterweight to Trump in the Senate’s freshman class, announced his support for the resolution Thursday morning, declaring, “This is a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core.”

His home-state colleague, Lee, who tried to assemble a last-minute deal with the White House to rein in the president’s powers under the National Emergencies Act, said, “The White House is asserting authority to spend money objects and priorities in a manner not themselves directly authorized by Congress.”

“Congress directly refused the request to appropriate the specific amount of funds that we’ere dealing with here,” he added. 

The backlash against Trump was all the more pointed after days of lobbying led by Vice President Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House legislative liaison Shahira Knight.

Trump himself made a final appeal to Republican senators on Thursday, tweeting about drug smuggling and human trafficking at the border and asserting the constitutionality of his action. 

“A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!” he warned. 

But in a telling reflection of Trump’s popularity with the Republican base, only one of the 12 rebels is up for reelection next year: Collins, who represents a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016. 

Another Republican facing reelection, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), changed his position on the disapproval resolution moments before the vote. 

Tillis stated his support for the resolution in a Feb. 25 op-ed in The Washington Post but since then has come under pressure from conservatives in North Carolina, who warn he may face a primary challenge in 2020. 

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who describes himself as a “constitutional conservative” and warned in February that Trump’s declaration could undermine constitutional checks and balances, also voted “no.” 

Sasse was seen as a possible “yes” vote, but he too is on the ballot in 2020 and could face a primary challenger on the basis of his up-and-down relationship with Trump.  

Some Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), had made up their minds days ago but kept their decisions private out of deference to the White House and GOP colleagues who were trying to come up with a compromise to avoid voting for the disapproval resolution. 

Rubio, however, a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, made clear last month that he had serious misgivings about diverting funds Congress had appropriated to rebuild and maintain military installations. 

Some Republicans who voted against the resolution flew under the radar in the days leading up to the vote. 

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who kept his position private and didn’t participate prominently in the frantic negotiations of the past week to come up with a way to defeat the disapproval resolution, announced his “yes” vote on Thursday morning. 

“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,” he tweeted.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, also kept his position quiet until voting for the resolution on the floor. 

After years of watching power in Washington slowly shift from Congress to the White House, a trend accelerated by the gridlock that has characterized Capitol Hill over much of the last decade, Republican senators on Thursday said they hah had enough. 

In the end, the vote boiled down to an effort by GOP lawmakers to preserve their power of the purse, even though they agree with Trump’s desire to secure the border to halt the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants. 

“One branch of government is asking another branch to give up power. Nobody gives up power around here. People want power, they don’t want to give it up,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), explaining why it was perhaps inevitable that Republican colleagues would rebel against Trump’s emergency declaration. 

Thursday’s vote was the second time in two days the Senate voted to limit Trump’s power.

Senators voted Wednesday 54-46 to withdraw U.S. military support for a Saudi-backed coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war. Seven Republicans voted for that measure even though it faces a veto.

Here is the list of the GOP senators who voted against Trump on the emergency declaration:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.)

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) 

Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah)

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.)

Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)

–Updated at 3:30 p.m. 

Tags Ben Sasse Border wall Donald Trump Emergency declaration Hillary Clinton Immigration Jerry Moran John Kennedy Kirstjen Nielsen Lamar Alexander Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Pat Toomey Rand Paul Rob Portman Roger Wicker Roy Blunt Susan Collins Thom Tillis
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