WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Wednesday again passed a bid to end the southern border emergency President Donald Trump declared to divert military construction funding to the border wall ― but not by a veto-proof majority.
The 54-41 vote, which saw 11 Republicans vote with the Democratic minority, was on a resolution to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had pressed Republicans in public remarks to join them.
“We don’t want any president, Democrat or Republican, to overreach and use the word ‘emergency’ to overcome congressional will,” Schumer said. “This is about checks and balances, not about Republicans and Democrats, and the need for the Senate to rein in an out-of-control executive.”
The White House budget office threatened to repeat Trump’s veto of an identical resolution on March 15, arguing that the border continues to be an entry point for “criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics, and the crisis threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.”
The Senate previously voted to end the emergency declaration, but a vote in the House failed to override Trump’s veto. This vote comes after the Pentagon released the list of 127 projects in 23 states and 19 allied countries that were deferred by the administration to devote $3.6 billion to the border wall.
Partisan rancor over the funding diversion has fueled an impasse in the Senate over appropriations bills, though Congress and Trump are expected to approve stopgap spending through Nov. 21.
Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Wednesday he has a meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday to chart a course forward, particularly in light of the Democrat-controlled House’s launch of an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.
“That will take a lot of oxygen out of the air," he told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defended the Trump administration, saying it is exercising longstanding emergency powers and blamed Democrats for failing to respond to illegal border crossings by families and to overtaxed immigrant detention facilities.
McConnell said Democrats had forced a “false choice” between border security and military construction projects — for which Congress can replace funding. “The only reason there is any trade-off is that Democrats have refused to work with the president,” he said.
The Republican supporters included Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Roy Blunt of Missouri; Susan Collins of Maine; Mike Lee of Utah; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Rand Paul of Kentucky; Ron Portman of Ohio; Mitt Romney of Utah; Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
In a floor speech ahead of the vote, Collins urged colleagues to stand up for Congress’ power of the purse, as laid out in the Constitution.
“I cannot support the president unilaterally taking money that has been appropriated for one purpose and diverting those billions of dollars for another purpose, no matter how important or worthy that goal may be,” Collins said.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.