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4 Southern GOP senators defy Trump on border emergency; North Carolina’s Thom Tillis makes about face to support president
Rubio, Paul, Wicker and Alexander break with Trump in voting to overturn emergency declaration
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — With the support of four Southern Republicans and all four Southern Democrats, the U.S. Senate has voted to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to find money for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But one GOP senator who had come out publicly in favor of overturning the declaration — Thom Tillis of North Carolina — reversed course and voted no, after intense lobbying from the White House and an avalanche of criticism from Trump partisans back home.
Trump has vowed to veto the resolution overturning the declaration, which passed by a 59-41 margin in the Republican-controlled Senate on March 14. The House passed it in late February by a vote of 254-182.
However, opponents of the declaration do not have enough support in either House to override Trump’s veto, which will be the first of his presidency.
Frustrated by the unwillingness of the Democrat-controlled House to vote money for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency on February 15, which will allow him to shift $8 billion from other federal programs and use it for wall construction. Most of the money will come from appropriations for military construction and drug interdiction.
In a floor speech before the vote, Alexander said he objected to Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to provide border wall funding after Congress failed to appropriate the money.
“The problem with this is that after a Revolutionary War against a king, our nation’s founders gave to Congress the power to approve all spending so that the president would not have too much power. This check on the executive is a crucial source of our freedom,” Alexander said.
Rubio said he agreed with Trump that an emergency exists at the border but said he objected to shifting money out of the military construction budget to finance the border barrier.
“This would create a precedent a future president may abuse to jumpstart programs like the Green New Deal, especially given the embrace of socialism we are seeing on the political left,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
Paul and Wicker also cited constitutional considerations as the reason for their vote to overturn the declaration.
“I stand with President Trump on the need for a border wall and stronger border security, but the Constitution clearly states that money cannot be spent unless Congress has passed a law to do so,” Paul said in a statement.
Wicker said he regretted “that we were not able to find a solution that would have averted a challenge to the balance of power as defined by the Constitution.”
“The system of checks and balances established by the Founders has preserved our democracy. It is essential that we protect this balance even when it is frustrating or inconvenient,” he said in a statement.
Tillis made a splash when he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on February 25 saying he would vote to overturn the emergency declaration because it would set a precedent that “future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”
Tillis faced an avalanche of criticism from the president’s supporters in the Tar Heel State and was facing the likelihood of a primary challenge in his 2020 re-election race.
“A lot has changed over the last three weeks — a discussion with the vice president, a number of senior administration officials … a serious discussion about changing the National Emergencies Act in a way that will have Congress speak on emergency actions in the future,” Tillis said.
Republican senators had considered changing the National Emergencies Act to make it more difficult to declare emergencies in the future, but the plan faltered when House Democrats came out against it.
Tillis said he concluded that the crisis at the border was sufficiently serious to warrant the emergency declaration.
“We have narcotics flooding our country, poisoning our children and adults of all ages, and a lot of it has to do with the porous border and the seemingly out of control crossings,” Tillis said.
But Democrats back home pounced on Tillis for his change of heart.
“Tillis again reminded the entire state who he is — a spineless politician who won’t keep his promises and looks out for himself instead of North Carolina,” said Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard in a statement.
Rubio and Paul do not face re-election until 2022; Wicker’s current term lasts through 2024.
Among the Democrats who voted against Trump, Jones is the only one who is running for re-election in 2020. Warner isn’t up for re-election until 2022, and Manchin and Kaine’s current terms last through 2024.
Jones is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for election in 2020, in a state where Trump remains popular.
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House approves measure to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration with just 3 Southern GOP votes
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina has become the first Southern Republican in the Senate to break ranks to support overturning President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to find money to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Democrat-controlled House passed a bill Tuesday to overturn the emergency declaration, which now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate.
In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Tillis said he is concerned that the emergency declaration will set a precedent that “future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”
“Those on the left and the right who are making Trump’s emergency declaration a simple political litmus test of whether one supports or opposes the president and his policies are missing the mark,” Tillis said. “This is about the separation of powers and whether Congress will support or oppose a new precedent of executive power that will have major consequences.”
Tillis said conservatives “should be thinking about whether they would accept the prospect of a President Bernie Sanders declaring a national emergency to implement parts of the radical Green New Deal; a President Elizabeth Warren declaring a national emergency to shut down banks and take over the nation’s financial institutions; or a President Cory Booker declaring a national emergency to restrict Second Amendment rights.”
He also noted that Republicans “rightfully cried foul” when President Barack Obama used executive action to bypass Congress.
“There is no intellectual honesty in now turning around and arguing that there’s an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach — that it’s acceptable for my party but not thy party,” he said.
Trump, frustrated by the unwillingness of the Democrat-controlled House to vote money for the border wall, declared a national emergency on February 15, which will allow him to shift $8 billion from other federal programs and use it for wall construction. Most of the money will come from appropriations for military construction and drug interdiction.
Under the law that governs national emergencies, Congress can overturn an emergency declaration with a majority vote in both houses. However, Trump is certain to veto the measure if it gets through the Senate, and the president has enough support to prevent his veto from being overridden.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Three Republicans — Tillis, Susan Collins from Maine, and Lisa Murkowski — have now said they will vote in favor of overturning the declaration; any additional GOP defections will mean it is likely to pass when it comes to the floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has 18 days to bring the House resolution to a vote.
In the House, almost all of the Southern Republicans stuck with the president.
The dissenters were Rooney, who represents Southwest Florida; Hurd, who represents a West Texas district along the U.S.-Mexico border where much of the proposed wall would be constructed; and Massie, who said he supports construction of the wall but voted for the resolution “in order to be consistent in preserving the constitutional structure of our Republic.”
“There is a crisis at our border, but it’s not an emergency when Congress doesn’t spend money how the President wants,” Massie said on Twitter. “The President’s constitutional remedy is to veto spending bills that aren’t suitable to him, yet he has chosen to sign many bills that did not fund the wall.”
If Congress is unable to override Trump’s veto, the battle over the border wall will likely head to federal court, where opponents plan to challenge the legality of the emergency declaration.