WASHINGTON, D. C. – Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday voted to reject the national emergency that President Donald Trump invoked to secure funds to build a wall along the nation’s southern border after Congress refused to provide the money he sought.
Although he backs Trump’s border wall, Portman joined group of Republicans who expressed constitutional concerns over Trump’s decision to usurp Congress’ power of the purse through the emergency declaration. Portman said Trump could get the money he needs from several other sources – such as a treasury forfeiture fund and the Defense Department’s counter-drug account – without declaring an emergency.
“I will vote to support the disapproval resolution,” Portman said in a speech on the Senate floor. “I continue to hope the president uses the funds he has available to him without creating a bad precedent.”
The Senate adopted the measure in a 59 to 41 vote, with backing from 11 other Republicans including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved the measure last month. Trump has said he will veto the legislation, and it’s not likely there will be enough votes in either legislative body to override it.
Portman said the precedent Trump set through the inappropriate emergency declaration “opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want and to take funding from other areas Congress has already decided upon without Congress’ approval.”
He said a future president could use the unlimited power of the emergency declaration to seize industries or control means of communication, or to say climate change is a national emergency and use emergency authorities to implement a Green New Deal.
Earlier this week, Lee introduced a Portman-backed measure that would have left Trump’s current presidential emergency intact but ended future presidential emergency declarations after 30 days unless Congress agreed to extend them. On Wednesday, Lee announced he’d vote to terminate the emergency declaration because the White House said it would not support that bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had described it as “legislation to give President Trump a pass” and said the House would not consider it.
“Unfortunately, it appears the bill does not have an immediate path forward, so I will be voting to terminate the latest emergency declaration,” said a statement from Lee. “I hope this legislation will serve as a starting point for future work on this very important issue.”
The President’s decision to go around Congress and take funding away from our military to support his vanity project is reckless and irresponsible.
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) March 14, 2019
Ohio Democratic Sherrod Brown was a vocal critic of Trump’s actions, calling them “a manufactured emergency over an unnecessary wall.” After the vote, he released a statement that called upon his Republican colleagues to help override Trump’s anticipated veto. He said there’s never been a situation in the past where a president asked for funding, Congress refused to provide it, and the president declared a national emergency to spend the money anyway.
“The President’s decision to go around Congress and take funding away from our military to support his vanity project is reckless and irresponsible,” said Brown. “Instead of building a wall, we should be passing legislation to protect pensions for millions of workers and retirees, bring down the cost of prescription drugs, and rewrite the tax code to put hardworking Americans first.
After Congress failed to provide $5.7 billion that Trump sought to build barriers along the U.S. border with Mexico, Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 to justify redirecting $3.6 billion in military construction money and around $3.1 billion from counternarcotics programs and asset forfeiture money towards wall construction.
“We have an emergency of people pouring into our country that we don’t want — criminals, smugglers,” Trump said. “We have drugs pouring into our country. We can’t have it.”
The Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate – Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Chuck Schumer of New York – called the declaration “unlawful,” and said it was a “power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.
A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” said a statement the pair released. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.
The White House countered that President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama used the emergency declaration process to undertake more than 18 different military construction projects between 2001 and 2013. Because the measure did not pass the House or Senate by the two thirds majority required to override a veto, Trump’s veto would likely kill it.
“I don’t think it survives a veto; we have too many smart people that want border security, so I can’t imagine it could survive a veto,” Trump told reporters when the measure was introduced. “But I will veto it, yes.”