Is Donald Trump prepared to deploy the first veto of his presidency in the service of overriding a resolution aimed at nullifying his border declaration?
Let’s ask him!
On Thursday afternoon, as expected, the Senate joined the House in voting to block Trump’s farcical national “emergency”. The vote on H.J. Res. 46 was 59-41.
Breaking ranks were Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, among others.
“[This is] a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core”, Romney said, adding that he is “seriously concerned that overreach by the Executive Branch is an invitation to further expansion and abuse by future president.”
“This check on the executive is a source of our freedom”, Alexander remarked. “Any appreciation for our structure of government means that no president should be able to use the National Emergencies Act to spend money that Congress refuses to provide.”
This was a foregone conclusion. Even before Trump strode out into the Rose Garden on February 15 and proceeded to immediately undercut his own case by accidentally admitting that there was not in fact an emergency (in his own words, “I didn’t need to do this”), Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro made it clear that he was prepared to introduce a measure to terminate the declaration in the House, where it was guaranteed to pass.
Republicans in the Senate are concerned about setting a precedent that opens the door for a future Democratic president (or any president, really), to declare a national emergency whenever the White House doesn’t get its way from Congress.
It doesn’t help that almost all of the evidence suggests Trump is exaggerating when he claims there’s an “emergency” at the southern border.
That lack of evidence partially explains why the administration was immediately sued by the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen, by the Center for Biological Diversity in conjunction with the Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and the People of Michigan.
Adding insult to injury, more than two dozen former GOP lawmakers and a veritable who’s who of high profile national security personnel implored Congress to block Trump’s declaration in sharply-worded open letters late last month.
Basically, everyone knows this is a highly dubious power grab and while Republicans would have likely been more than happy to countenance some presidential overreach, doing so in the service of something as silly as Trump’s vanity wall was a bridge too far for the handful of GOP defectors.
Trump wasn’t amused. Here’s some classic fearmongering/xenophobia for you, courtesy of the presidential Twitter account:
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!
Don’t let it be lost on you that this comes just a day after the Senate supported a resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. That too sets up a veto and much like the border resolution, the congressional rebuke of Trump’s policies was a foregone conclusion.
The vote on the Yemen resolution was 54-46 on Wednesday, and assuming the House passes it (and they already adopted a similar bill last month), Trump would be effectively ordered to withdraw US support for the conflict within 30 days.
As a reminder, the Senate already passed this once last year, but the House never took it up. Once the House flipped to Pelosi, the push to hold the Saudis accountable for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and for the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi moved forward.
Trump has angered lawmakers with his willingness to look the other way on the Khashoggi killing despite a CIA assessment that faulted Crown Prince Mohammed and despite voluminous evidence to support the common sense assessment that Riyadh was behind the murder.
Trump and Mike Pompeo have variously dragged their feet on complying with a Magnitsky Act request, exacerbating the situation.
“In an attempt to defuse rising anger on Capitol Hill, the White House sent two aides from the State and Treasury Departments last week to a closed-door briefing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but senators on the panel were left unsatisfied, with some suggesting it was time for the full Senate to act”, The New York Times wrote Wednesday, underscoring the frustration.
Assuming the House passes the Senate’s Yemen measure, Trump would be forced to veto it too.
It should go without saying that the optics will not be great if the president overrides Congress twice in a row, first on a move to effectively wrench control of the purse strings away from lawmakers so he can build a wall on the border, and next in the interest of providing ongoing US military support for the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet with the unspoken goal of covering up a heinous murder perpetuated by an unelected royal with close ties to Trump.
But hey, the president isn’t a man who cares much for optics, so get ready to watch as “Tariff Man” morphs into “Veto Man”.