Last week, with a 53-36 vote (59.6 percent), the U.S. Senate failed to get the two-thirds necessary to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution reversing his February 15 “national emergency” declaration. That declaration, coming after Trump failed to force Congress to pay billions for his “border wall” demands, would take more than $6 billion from the Defense Department budget and Treasury seized-asset funds, and plow it into border wall construction.
A quick rundown:
- 2019 started with much of the U.S. government “shut down” because Congress would not pass a budget giving Trump the $5.7 billion he wanted for his border wall.
- Finally, after a 35-day shutdown, Trump caved and signed a budget with far less wall funding.
- On February 15, using power he claimed that the 1976 National Emergencies Act gives him, Trump declared an “emergency” at the border requiring him to move money out of defense accounts and into wall-building.
- Court challenges to this emergency declaration are ongoing. In July, the Supreme Court allowed wall-building to proceed while judicial deliberations continue. In mid-October, though, a federal judge in El Paso froze much of the Defense Department money.
The National Emergencies Act gives Congress the ability to challenge the emergency declaration every six months, by passing a joint resolution. A 1983 Supreme Court decision allows the President to veto this resolution; the emergency declaration would then remain in place unless two thirds of both houses of Congress vote to override the presidential veto.
Twice now—in February-March and September-October—Congress has passed joint resolutions to take down Trump’s emergency declaration. Both times, Trump has vetoed the resolutions. Both times, a strong majority, but not the necessary two-thirds, has voted to override the veto.
There have now been six votes on passage and override of these joint resolutions: three in the House and three in the Senate. Not a single Democrat has voted “no” against these resolutions. Any two-thirds override vote, though, also requires a significant number of Republican votes.
Even in this polarized time, some Republicans have defied the president and voted to undo the emergency declaration. To be exact, 14 in the House and 12 in the Senate. That’s 7 percent of House Republicans, and 23 percent of Senate Republicans.
The rest of the Republican Party’s congressional delegation seems to be unconcerned about the constitutional ramifications of a president unilaterally acting in direct opposition to the clearly expressed will of a Congress that, supposedly, has “the power of the purse.”
Here are the GOP legislators who have voted to undo this authoritarian and wasteful measure. In the Senate, half are members of the Appropriations Committee, whose power to assign funds is directly challenged by the emergency declaration. Many are among the party’s few remaining moderates. Most of their votes are more about preserving Congress’s constitutional power to appropriate funds than about the wisdom of building a border wall. That’s still a principled position, and I wish more GOP legislators would take it.
- Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee, voted “yes” twice, did not vote once): member of Appropriations; said “I cannot support this national emergency declaration and be faithful to my oath to support the Constitution at the same time”
- Roy Blunt (R-Missouri, voted “yes” three times): member of Appropriations; said “Those decisions should not be made without congressional action.”
- Susan Collins (R-Maine, voted “yes” three times): member of Appropriations; said “while there is some discretion that he has to move money around, I think that his executive order exceeds his discretion”
- Mike Lee (R-Utah, voted “yes” three times): concerned about ceding congressional power
- Jerry Moran (R-Kansas, voted “yes” twice, did not vote once): member of Appropriations; said “The declaration of an emergency under these circumstances is a violation of the U.S. Constitution”
- Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska, voted “yes” three times): member of Appropriations, said “This is about the administration overstepping Constitutional authority, forcing Congress to relinquish power that is fundamentally ours”
- Rand Paul (R-Kentucky, voted “yes” three times): a libertarian; said “I can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president”
- Rob Portman (R-Ohio, voted “yes” three times): a relative moderate, said “the emergency declaration circumvented Congress and set a ‘dangerous new precedent’”
- Mitt Romney (R-Utah, voted “yes” three times): a frequent Trump critic, concerned about ceding congressional power
- Marco Rubio (R-Florida, voted “yes” twice, did not vote once): member of Appropriations, said “We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution”
- Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania, voted “yes” three times): said he supports the wall, but “the emergency declaration undermines the constitutional responsibility of Congress to approve how money is spent”
- Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi, voted “yes” three times): said he supports the wall, but “I have serious reservations as to what the Emergency Declaration might do to the Constitutional principle of checks and balances.” (Fun fact: as a member of the House in 2000, Wicker was one of few Republicans to oppose the mostly military aid package known as “Plan Colombia.”)
- Justin Amash (I-Michigan, voted “yes” twice, then left the Republican Party): said “I think the President is violating our constitutional system”
- Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania, voted “yes” three times): said “I think this decision should be made by Congress”
- Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin, voted “yes” three times): said “we can’t continue to expand executive authority just because our party now controls the White House”
- Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Washington, voted “yes” three times): member of Appropriations; said “He [Trump] literally contradicted the Constitution to use this money for something other than which it was intended”
- Will Hurd (R-Texas, voted “yes” twice, did not vote once): member of Appropriations; represents a border district and has been a consistent border wall critic
- Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota, voted “yes” three times): said “I spent eight years under President Obama fighting ever-expanding executive authority. I remain committed to that principle”
- John Katko (R-New York, voted “yes” twice, did not vote once): said “Presidents, from either party, should not legislate from the executive branch”
- Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky, voted “yes” three times): said “The appropriations process belongs within Congress according to the Constitution”
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington, voted “yes” three times): said “Article I of the Constitution gives the legislative branch the exclusive power to make laws and set funding priorities”
- Francis Rooney (R-Florida, voted “yes” three times): said “My vote to override a veto of the resolution to rescind the national emergency declaration was based on the U.S. Constitution and had nothing to do with President Trump.” Recently made headlines by saying he is “open” to impeaching Trump
- Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin, voted “yes” three times): said “It is imperative that no administration, Republican or Democratic, circumvent the will of Congress”
- Elise Stefanik (R-New York, voted “yes” three times): said “No matter what Party is represented in the White House, I will stand up against executive action that circumvents Congress”
- Fred Upton (R-Michigan, voted “yes” three times): said “declaring a national emergency and reprogramming already appropriated funds without the approval of Congress is a violation of the Constitution”
- Greg Walden (R-Oregon, voted “yes” three times): said the “Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, not the President”
Here are the votes:
- February 26: House Roll Call 94 on H.J. Res. 46 (passed 245-182)
- March 14: Senate Recorded Vote 49 on H.J. Res. 46 (passed 59-41)
- March 26: House Roll Call 127 on H.J. Res. 46 veto override (failed to get two-thirds, 248-181)
- September 25: Senate Recorded Vote 302 on S.J. Res. 54 (passed 54-41)
- September 27: House Roll Call 553 on S.J. Res. 54 (passed 236-174)
- October 17: Senate Recorded Vote 325 on S.J. Res. 54 veto override (failed to get two-thirds, 53-36)