WASHINGTON – The Senate passed on Thursday a resolution that blocks President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration at the United States’ southern border.
The 59-41 vote in the Republican-controlled upper house came just over two weeks after the measure was approved by a sizable 245-182 majority in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
Neither vote, however, was by the two-thirds margin that would be necessary to override an almost-certain Trump veto.
“VETO!” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after the Senate approved the resolution with the support of the entire Democratic caucus and 12 renegade Republicans.
“I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!” the president said in a follow-up tweet.
Trump declared the national emergency on Feb. 15 with the goal of bypassing Congress and securing billions of dollars in additional funding to build a wall on the US’s border with Mexico.
He said then, however, that he foresees lawsuits and a tough battle in the courts in trying to get the wall built.
The White House says that Trump plans to use around $8 billion to build the wall, including just under $1.38 billion from a Homeland Security appropriations bill that Congress passed on Feb. 14 to avert a new government shutdown.
The remaining $6.6 billion in funds is to be shifted from other programs through a combination of executive actions and the national emergency declaration.
Trump’s plan is to use $3.5 billion from the Defense Department’s military construction budget, $2.5 billion from that department’s drug interdiction program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund to supplement the funding approved by Congress.
Trump’s pledge to build a wall to put a stop to illegal immigration is considered priority No. 1 by his core group of supporters and was a key factor in his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats, however, have blasted Trump’s plans to move money around without congressional approval and say there is no emergency on the US’s southern border.
Several Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, say invoking a national emergency to build the wall creates a dangerous precedent because a future Democratic president would feel free to take similar action in the future if his or her priorities were blocked by Congress.
Four GOP senators – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Thom Tillis and Rand Paul – had said in the lead-up to the vote that they would support the Democratic resolution, although Tillis changed his mind and voted in line with most of his Republican colleagues.
But several other GOP senators who had not announced their intentions beforehand also voted with the Democrats: Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander, Marco Rubio, Jerry Moran, Rob Portman, Roger Wicker, Roy Blunt and Pat Toomey.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, expressed support for the emergency declaration after Thursday’s session.
“The president is operating within existing law and the crisis on our border is all too real,” the Kentucky lawmaker said.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the vote in the Senate and reiterated her rejection of Trump’s move.
“The Congress has now voted on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis to reject President Trump’s effort to ignore the Constitution with his sham emergency declaration,” the California Democrat said. “President Trump’s emergency declaration is an unlawful power grab that does violence to the Constitution and fundamentally alters the separation of powers.”
Overriding an expected Trump veto will be a tall order though, requiring 67 votes in the 100-seat Senate and 290 votes in the 435-member House.