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Senate Expected To Vote Against Trump's Emergency Declaration

Mar 14, 2019
Originally published on March 14, 2019 7:12 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today Congress takes a step toward reclaiming its power of the purse. President Trump declared a national emergency to spend money on a border wall after Congress declined to provide quite so much. The House has voted to overturn that declaration, and today the Senate votes on whether to follow. It appears that enough Senate Republicans will join Democrats to successfully oppose the resolution. NPR political reporter Tim Mak has been covering this story. He's on the line.

Good morning.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How many Republicans will join the Democrats?

MAK: Well, it isn't clear exactly how many Republicans will break ranks today, but enough have said that they will join with Democrats, that the congressional disapproval of the emergency declaration is expected to pass. I mean, you'll remember, this all started nearly a month ago when Congress declined to give Trump as much money for a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as he wanted. So he then declared a national emergency in order to shift billions of dollars of funds around that he otherwise would not have been able to access. You know, a lot of conservatives have defined their entire career on being constitutional conservatives, that adhere closely to the written text of the founding documents and they just don't like this idea of doing an end run around Congress.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm just thinking about the practical implications of this, though. Because, of course, the president can veto this. We would expect him to veto it. So you would need a veto-proof majority, 2/3 in the House and the Senate. I don't think there was a 2/3 majority in the House. It doesn't seem likely there'll be a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Does this particularly matter if the president just bats it away?

MAK: Well, it's the significance of it all, right, that this is the president's signature issue, and it's a rebuke by Congress that includes members of the president's own party. I mean, ultimately, the White House's plan involves a number of ways to access this money. They've already gotten a little bit of money for some border construction, but it's the symbolic resonance of this, that Republicans are standing up against their own party's president to say, we don't like how you're doing this process.

INSKEEP: And I'm thinking of other issues where some Republicans have turned against the president, but they're perhaps not as high-profile. Of course, Republicans have voted against the U.S. support for the war in Yemen, for example. But is this a bigger deal?

MAK: You know, it's interesting. The Congress is trying to reassert itself in a number of different ways. You alluded to the war in Yemen. It's trying to reassert itself on war powers. The Senate voted again to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen. The House has voted earlier this year on that same issue. It's expected to do it again. So is this disapproval of the president's border wall declaration, is this bigger? I mean, I think it strikes at the heart of what the president promised to do when he came to Washington, D.C. I mean, we all remember during the campaign one of his primary slogans was, build that wall. So it certainly feels bigger because Congress is objecting to how Trump wants to build that wall.

INSKEEP: Although, is this an example in action, really, in which we see how much more power the executive has? Hypothetically, the greatest power rests with Congress. But they, in so many cases, including this, really effectively make suggestions which the president can either take or ignore.

MAK: I don't want to over-state the significance of the president's move, an emergency declaration here. It does not mean that the president can just choose where to spend money wherever he likes. It is a particular maneuver that's outlined in a law that many, you know, Republicans and Democrats are finding fault with. But it doesn't mean that Congress doesn't have a say, that appropriators on various committees don't have a say about how the U.S. government spends its money.

INSKEEP: OK. So this is a bit of a push and pull over the exact details of the rules, rather than a wholesale change. Tim, thanks so much.

MAK: Thanks so much.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tim Mak. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.