The Senate defied President Trump Thursday and passed a bill that attempts to block the commander-in-chief’s national emergency declaration.
The bill is expected to receive the first veto of Trump’s administration, with the president tweeting he would veto it shortly after the legislation was passed.
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With its vote, Congress told the president the border crisis is not a national emergency and he cannot use Defense Department funds to tackle the crisis. Fortunately, Congress does not have the votes to override Trump’s veto and the national emergency will remain in effect, barring a court decision of course. Trump is set to veto the bill on Friday. [Plans underway for Trump to veto the resolution tomorrow, official says, by Jim Acosta, CNN, March 14, 2019] It’s good that Trump is finally standing up for his immigration agenda against the Democrats and perfidious Republicans.
It is bad, however, that so many Senate Republicans voted to block Trump’s executive order. Twelve Republicans voted for the Democrat-crafted bill. In comparison, only 13 out of 197 House Republicans voted for the block. It was expected that at least four Senate Republicans would vote for it, but 12 seems like a revolt against Trump.
These are the 12 Republicans who voted for it:
The only Republican senator running for re-election who voted for the bill was the uber-moderate Susan Collins.
Notably missing from the list is North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Tillis wrote an entire op-ed on why he would be voting to block the national emergency declaration. Unlike nearly all the yes votes, Tillis is up for re-election in 2020. It appears Trump’s threats to withhold re-election support worked on him. [‘Beware the fury of Trump’: 2020 GOP senators back president on border, by James Arkin and John Bresnahan, Politico, March 14, 2019]
Another surprising no vote is frequent Trump critic and respectable conservative extraordinaire Ben Sasse. Sen. Sasse issued a statement to explain why he doesn’t like the president using emergency powers, but he did say he thinks the border crisis is a national emergency. Sasse likely voted no for the same reason Tillis did--he’s up for re-election in a red state and doesn’t want Trump to back a primary challenger. [Sasse Backs Trump’s Emergency Declaration Despite Executive-Overreach Concern, by Jack Crowe, National Review, March 14, 2019]
It’s reassuring Trump has the power to bully some Republicans into supporting immigration patriotism and has no problem exerting that power. But it is a problem that so many Republicans would rather virtue signal rather than secure the border. Congress failed to get the necessary money for the wall, so Trump decided to allocate Defense money for, well, our defense.
This is not some wild power grab. This is a necessary action that is a result of congressional incompetence. As long as Trump sticks to his veto promise, the oh-so-principled votes won’t matter and the president can turn his attention to the legal battle over the declaration. Much is still be to be done to transform the GOP into a Trumpist party.
It’s good that Trump can pressure senators like Ben Sasse into doing the right thing. The president is going need to do that more often in this Congress.