On Thursday, a dozen courageous Republican Senators joined forces with Senate Democrats to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared nearly a month ago to allow him to build his border wall with Mexico. The Democratic-controlled House had voted earlier this month to block the declaration.
The vote certainly should have come as no surprise. Trump declared the national emergency in order to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico — a wall that he had long promised would be paid for by the Mexican government.
At a televised Rose Garden press conference following his emergency declaration, Trump said, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather (build the barrier) much faster. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”
Thursday’s 59-41 tally in the Senate was immediately followed by Trump’s one-word tweet: “VETO!” The presidential response was not unexpected. Trump has been threatening the veto since the House vote on his declaration.
Many senators said the vote was not necessarily a rejection of the president or the wall, but protection against future presidents’ misuse of the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
The defectors included the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah.
“This is a constitutional question, it’s a question about the balance of power that is core to our constitution,” Romney told The Associated Press. “This is not about the president. The president can certainly express his views as he has, and individual senators can express theirs.”
Another former GOP presidential hopeful, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said, “The Senate’s waking up a little bit to our responsibilities.” Commenting that the Senate had become “a little lazy” as an equal branch of government, he added, “I think the value of these last few weeks is to remind the Senate of our constitutional place.”
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.
He tweeted, “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!”
Among Republicans willing to face Trump’s wrath was centrist Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is, should she decide to run for another term in the Senate, considered among the most vulnerable in the 2020 election.
Collins said following the vote that 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.”
Thursday’s vote was, in our view, an issue of Trump’s own making. Late last year, after failing in his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, he all but dared Congress not to give him the $5.7 billion he was demanding to build the U.S.-Mexico or risk a federal government shutdown
Congress declined, resulting in the longest shutdown in the nation’s history.
Ignoring the advice of GOP leaders, he invoked the national emergency declaration and shuffled money from military projects, further alienating many lawmakers.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it best following Thursday’s vote: “Today’s vote caps a week of something the American people haven’t seen enough of in the last two years, both parties in the United States Congress standing up to Donald Trump.”
The nation’s founding fathers envisioned a separation of powers in government, and our congressional representatives should vote to retain that separation.