WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump by voting to end his border emergency declaration, as 12 Republicans joined Democrats to deliver a second blow in as many days to the president, who quickly pledged a veto.
The 59-41 vote was a bipartisan repudiation of Trump's decision to circumvent Congress and take money already designated for other programs and redirect it to pay for his US-Mexico border wall, which he promised to build during his 2016 campaign.
In the first two years of his term, the Republican-led Congress mostly accommodated Trump, which spared him from having to use his veto pen. With Republicans showing increased willingness to defy him, Trump promised a change.
"VETO!" he tweeted shortly after the vote.
VETO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1552590991000
The vote on Thursday marked back-to-back defeats for Trump in the Republican-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, senators approved a resolution seeking to end US support for a Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen, rejecting Trump's policy toward the kingdom.
"Today's votes cap a week of something the American people haven't seen enough of in the last two years," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. "My hope is that this past week isn't an aberration, but a turning point."
I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Cr… https://t.co/bVCZrpb9LC— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1552592588000
A House of Representatives leadership aide said there would likely be a vote to attempt to override Trump's promised veto on March 26 after lawmakers return from a one-week recess.
The measure is unlikely to become law as there aren't enough Republicans in the House and Senate to sustain a Trump veto, which requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override. The issue could ultimately be decided by the courts.
Trump has made clamping down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his presidency and it promises to be central to his 2020 re-election campaign.
His drive for billions of dollars to build a US-Mexico border wall - one that he initially promised Mexico would pay for - has placed a wedge between him and Congress, including many Republicans who are uncomfortable even talking about a "wall." Many in Congress say effective border security requires a range of law enforcement tools.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had urged his fellow Republicans to defeat the resolution rejecting the emergency declaration, which was passed in February by the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives.
Republicans who defected by supporting the measure to end the emergency declaration are worried that presidents - including future Democratic ones - could usurp the power of Congress to fund the government and use the tactic to pass their own pet programs.
McConnell said Trump was "operating within existing law" and that if senators did not like the powers provided to the president under the National Emergencies Act, "then they should amend it."
COURTS LIKELY TO DECIDE
At stake are billions of dollars in funding for barriers along the US-Mexico border that Trump is demanding but Congress has refused to fully provide. The stalemate led to a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended in January.
Under the emergency declaration he signed on Feb. 15, Trump would take money from other federal programs to build the barrier, which he says is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Even with a veto threat looming, senators and legal experts said Congress was sending a message that could be cited by judges in several lawsuits challenging Trump's emergency declaration.
"It's an important legal statement," said Senator Angus King, one of two Senate independents. "It tells the court this is explicitly not approved by Congress. By voting this resolution, Congress is reiterating we don't approve of this expenditure."
Peter Shane, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, agreed.
"Congress's vote, even if vetoed, would solidify any court's understanding that the so-called emergency is really part of an end-run around a legislative branch that is unconvinced an emergency exists, that refused to fund the wall, and that is constitutionally in charge of federal spending," he said.
Democrats deny there is an emergency at the border, saying border crossings are at a four-decade low.
"Democrats and Republicans both know the sad truth: The president did not declare an emergency because there is one," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "He declared an emergency because he lost in Congress and wants to get around it."
King expressed frustration the Department of Defense had so far refused to provide Congress with the projects it would have to suspend under Trump's emergency declaration in order to fund the wall.
"We have a reasonable expectation of knowing what the universe of potential projects cuts are before we take this vote," King said in a telephone interview with Reuters shortly before the vote, adding Trump was attempting to "undo" $3.6 billion worth of defense projects already approved by Congress. WASHINGTON: In a stunning rebuke, a dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats Thursday to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared so he could build his border wall with Mexico. The rejection capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways.
The 59-41 tally, following the Senate's vote a day earlier to end US involvement in the war in Yemen, promised to force Trump into the first vetoes of his presidency. Trump had warned against both actions. Moments after Thursday's vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: 'VETO!'
Two years into the Trump era, a defecting dozen Republicans, pushed along by Democrats, showed a willingness to take that political risk. Twelve GOP senators, including the party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the dissent over the emergency declaration order that would enable the president to seize for the wall billions of dollars Congress intended elsewhere.
"The Senate's waking up a little bit to our responsibilities," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who said the chamber had become 'a little lazy' as an equal branch of government. "I think the value of these last few weeks is to remind the Senate of our constitutional place."
Many senators said the vote was not necessarily a rejection of the president or the wall, but protections against future presidents -- namely a Democrat who might want to declare an emergency on climate change, gun control or any number of other issues.
``This is constitutional question, it's a question about the balance of power that is core to our constitution,'' Romney said. ``This is not about the president,'' he added. ``The president can certainly express his views as he has and individual senators can express theirs.''
Thursday's vote was the first direct challenge to the 1976 National Emergencies Act, just as Wednesday's on Yemen was the first time Congress invoked the decades-old War Powers Act to try to rein in a president. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in halting U.S. backing for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the aftermath of the kingdom's role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even though there's not likely to be enough numbers to override a veto, the votes nevertheless sent a message from Capitol Hill.
``Today's votes cap a week of something the American people haven't seen enough of in the last two years,'' said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, ``both parties in the United States Congress standing up to Donald Trump.''
The result is a role-reversal for Republicans who have been reluctant to take on Trump, bracing against his high-profile tweets and public attacks of reprimand. But now they are facing challenges from voters _ in some states where senators face stiff elections -- who are expecting more from Congress.
Centrist Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who's among those most vulnerable in 2020, said she's sure the president ``will not be happy with my vote. But I'm a United States senator and I feel my job is to stand up for the Constitution, so let the chips fall where they may.''
Trump's grip on the party, though, remains strong and the White House made it clear that Republicans resisting Trump could face political consequences. Ahead of the voting, Trump framed the issue as with-him-or-against-him on border security, a powerful argument with many.
``A vote for today's resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!'' Trump tweeted. ``Don't vote with Pelosi!'' he said in another, referring to the speaker of the House.
A White House official said Trump won't forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.
``I don't think anybody's sending the president a message,'' said Jim Risch of Idaho, the GOP chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He blamed the media for ``reaching'' to view every action ``through the prism of the presidency, and that isn't necessarily the way it works here.''
Trump brought on the challenge months ago when he all but dared Congress not to give him the $5.7 billion he was demanding to build the U.S.-Mexico wall or risk a federal government shutdown.
Congress declined and the result was the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Against the advice of GOP leaders, Trump invoked the national emergency declaration last month, allowing him to try to tap some $3.6 billion for the wall by shuffling money from military projects, and that drew outrage from many lawmakers. Trump had campaigned for president promising Mexico would pay for the wall.
The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, and lawmakers seethed as they worried about losing money for military projects that had already been approved for bases at home and abroad. The Democratic-led House swiftly voted to terminate Trump's order.
Senate Republicans spent weeks trying to avoid this outcome, up until the night before the vote, in a script that was familiar -- up until the gavel.
The most promising was an effort from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah for legislation that would impose limits on future presidential actions. That would give senators some solace as they allowed Trump's order to stand. GOP senators huddled with Vice President Mike Pence and seemed optimistic the White House might support their plan. Then Trump called Lee in the middle of a private Republican lunch meeting and, in the time it took the senator to step out of the room to take the call, it was over. Trump was opposed.
Lee and other senators were peeling off against the president. In a last-ditch effort the night before the vote, Lindsey Graham and other senators dashed to the White House to try once again for Trump's support to broker an alternative plan. Trump was frustrated by their arrival. They mostly failed.
Trump did tweet ahead of the vote that he would be willing to consider legislation to adjust the 1976 law at some later time.
That was enough of a signal for GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, who faces a potentially tough re-election in North Carolina, to flip his vote, according to a person unauthorized to discuss the private thinking and granted anonymity.
Tillis had been one of the first senators to say he would oppose the declaration, writing in a Washington Post opinion column last month that there'd be "no intellectual honesty" in backing Trump after his repeated objections about executive overreach by President Barack Obama. But on Thursday, he did.
Trump's public support in that tweet also helped bring on board several other Republicans, including Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse, who had been part of the private huddles, the person said.
For some, said Sen. John Thune, the GOP whip, ``the emergency declaration was just a bridge too far.''