WASHINGTON — The Senate is poised to deal President Donald Trump a defeat Thursday when it votes on whether to overturn his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border to divert $3.6 billion from military funding to build a wall.
The resolution to terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, which the House has already approved, could pass in the Senate by a slim majority if all Democrats and at least four Republicans who have publicly opposed Trump’s action cast their votes to support the measure.
Trump has threatened to veto the measure — which Congress does not have the votes to overturn — leaving it up to the courts to decide whether he overstepped his authority by shifting money appropriated by Congress based on lawsuits filed by 16 states and outside groups.
Trump cajoled Republicans to stand by him, telling them they were “overthinking” the issue and that support for the resolution would be a “bad vote.” Vice President Mike Pence worked with lawmakers on compromises and alternatives to lure back dissenting Republicans.
A decisive vote could be cast by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who tried to avoid a defeat for the president by luring uneasy Republicans to vote no on the resolution with another bill that would curtail a president’s national emergency powers in the future.
But after Trump told him that he found that legislation unacceptable, Lee announced in a statement that he would vote for the resolution because “Congress has been giving far too much legislative power to the executive branch” and his bill would fail without Trump support.
“I had hoped the ARTICLE ONE Act could begin to take that power back,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, it appears the bill does not have an immediate path forward, so I will be voting to terminate the latest emergency declaration.”
Other Republicans who said publicly they would vote for the resolution included Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). But Tillis wavered under White House and constituent pressure.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle worried about Trump’s national security declaration because he appeared to be using it to settle a policy dispute by encroaching on the constitutional role of Congress to determine how to spend money, often called the power of the purse.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Republicans to vote on the constitutional issue.
After reading the one-sentence resolution, Schumer said, “There’s no discussion as to whether we need a wall or not, whether there’s a crisis on the southern border or not. It simply says that this is not an emergency.”
Republican leaders still might introduce amendments or other maneuvers to try to derail the Democrats’ bid to force Trump to issue his first veto on an embarrassing loss in a Senate with a 53 to 47 seat majority, said some Republicans emerging from an afternoon caucus meeting.
“It sounds like there may be enough to pass as is, now,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) about the resolution. But he added, “It depends on what amendments come up, how they change the resolution.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw cold water on the efforts by Lee and others to offer bills to make it easier for Republicans to oppose the resolution when she announced she would not bring up those measures in the House, effectively killing them.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who told reporters he will vote against the resolution because he wants to support Trump, said Republicans might offer alternatives or amendments, but he didn’t believe they would succeed.
“My opinion is the president will lose this vote and then he will veto this bill,” he said.