House OKs Democrats’ bill blocking Trump emergency on wall
WASHINGTON — Democrats ignored a veto threat and rammed legislation through the House on Tuesday that would stymie President Donald Trump’s bid for billions of extra dollars for his border wall, escalating a clash over whether he is abusing his powers to advance his paramount campaign pledge.
The House’s 245-182 vote to block Trump’s national emergency declaration fell well below the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override his promised veto. Thirteen Republicans backed the Democrats’ resolution.
The vote throws the political hot potato to the Republican-run Senate, where there already are enough GOP defections to edge it to the cusp of passage. Vice President Mike Pence used a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a dangerous crisis at the border, but there were no signs he’d succeeded.
“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s planning a vote within the next three weeks. He even said Republicans remain uncertain about the legality of Trump’s move.
Senate passage would force Trump’s first veto. But the showdown is forcing Republicans to cast uncomfortable votes pitting their support for a president wildly popular with GOP voters against fears that his expansive use of emergency powers would invite future Democratic presidents to do likewise for their own pet policies.
Most Republicans said Democrats are driven by politics and a desire to oppose Trump at every turn and that Trump has clear authority to declare an emergency to protect the country. They also defended the president’s claims of a security crisis along the boundary with Mexico.
“We are at war on the Southern border with the drug cartels,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas.
Trump has asserted that barriers would stop drugs from Mexico from entering the U.S. In fact, government figures show that 90 percent of drugs intercepted from Mexico are caught at ports of entry, not remote areas where barriers would be constructed.
“Is your oath of office to Donald Trump, or is your oath of office to the Constitution?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked Republicans.
All 12 Ohio Republican House members set aside any misgivings they may have about Trump’s decision and voted against the resolution.
Among those was Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. He represents Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which stands to potentially lose $61 million to expand an intelligence center depending upon which military construction dollars Trump uses to pay for the wall.
Turner told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday night that the situation at the border is “one where we do need to take action.”
His decision to oppose the resolution played a role in Rep. Troy Balderson’s decision to do so as well. Balderson, a Zanesville Republican, said he had been struggling with a decision.
All four Ohio Democrats voted against Trump’s emergency declaration, with Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, calling Trump’s declaration “unilateral and unwarranted” and “an abuse of (Trump’s) constitutional oath.”
The money would be used to build steel barriers up to 30 feet tall and other barriers and for “law enforcement efforts,” said a White House statement.
In the Senate, three Republicans have said they will back Democrats’ drive to block the emergency declaration: Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. One more GOP defection would provide enough votes to approve the Democratic measure, assuming all Democrats and their independent allies back it.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chief GOP vote counter, said there may be GOP attempts to amend the House measure, saying Republicans “think they have amendments that would improve it.”
Even with Democrats’ effort nearly certain to ultimately fail, several lawsuits have been filed against Trump’s move. Those suits at the very least are likely to delay access to those funds for months or years.