House votes to overturn Trump emergency declaration

February 26, 2019 GMT

The House delivered a searing rebuke Tuesday to President Trump, voting to overturn his border emergency wall-building declaration in a floor showdown Democrats said was nothing short of a historic stand against tyranny.

The victory, however, could be short-lived.

The vote sends the bill to the Senate, which will vote sometime in March, and appears likely to pass the resolution. But Mr. Trump has vowed a veto, and Tuesday’s 245-182 vote shows that while the president couldn’t muster a majority, there is there’s more than enough GOP support to sustain his veto.

“This emergency declaration will be upheld,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, who as the House minority whip is in charge of GOP vote-counting. “Ultimately we are going to stand with the president in making sure we can secure this border and confront this national crisis that’s taking lives every single day.”

That does not, however, mean the debate is painless for Mr. Trump, who will likely see another loss in the Senate next month, and who will likely have to use his veto for the first time in his administration.

And the president could suffer political damage, having failed to convince most Americans of the need for his wall, and facing a bipartisan rebuke on Capitol Hill.

Democrats cast the vote as a constitutional clash between a runaway president and a Congress intend on defending democracy.

“Perhaps it’s time for our country to have a civics lesson,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chided her GOP colleagues, telling them to live up to their oath of office to defend the Constitution.

“W’ere not going to give any president, Democrat or Republican, a black check to shred the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “We would be delinquent in our duty as members of Congress if we did not overturn what the president proposed.”

Republicans, though, said Mr. Trump was acting under clear emergency powers Congress granted in the 1976 National Emergencies Act.

That law does give the president powers to shift money around in times of emergency. The law also gives Congress a path to block him, by passing a resolution of disapproval.

That’s what the House did Tuesday.

Thirteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Mr. Trump. But that’s well short of the 53 Republicans who’d need to vote with all Democrats in order to achieve the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto.

The measure does, however, go to the Senate, where it must be voted on within 15 business days/

Vice President Mike Pence met with GOP senators over lunch to try to limit defections, after several members of the Republican Conference have already said they’ll join Democrats to vote against Mr. Trump.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was a “very fulsome” discussion.

“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” he said.

In the House, GOP leaders cast Tuesday’s vote not as a constitutional clash but rather a statement about the situation on the border. They said from what the see, the president is right to say declare an emergency.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Wisconsin Republican, just returned from a border deployment with the Wisconsin National Guard, and he said the emergency isn’t so much immigration he said he supports a broad bill to legalize illegal immigrants but rather with drug-smugglers, and with “coyotes” who lead illegal immigrants on the dangerous journey north.

“A wall, a barrier, is not compassionless. I think border security and compassion actually go hand-in-hand,” Mr. Kinzinger said.

Hypocrisy was rife on both sides.

Republicans who derided President Obama for executive overreach on immigration have leapt to defend Mr. Trump, saying he’s identified a proper emergency.

Yet Democrats, who cheered Mr. Obama when he spent Obamacare money over Congress’s objections and when he created a deportation amnesty for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” by executive action in 2012, said Mr. Trump was a unique threat to democracy.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House majority leader and one of those who cheered Mr. Obama, this week complained Mr. Trump was acting like King George III.

“The Congress of the United States needs to have a spine and not lay at the feet of the president of the United States States and say ’Whatever you want, sir!” the Maryland Democrat thundered from the well of the House.