WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday to terminate President Donald Trump’s national-emergency declaration, which allows him to reprogram federal funds for the construction of additional physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.
The vote is a stern rebuke of Trump, who has prompted lawsuits and widespread criticism over his use of emergency powers to justify building his long-promised wall. But in order to become veto-proof, the resolution will need to gain much more Republican support, which is poised to be an uphill battle for Democrats.
The resolution, which was introduced by Democratic Rep. Julian Castro of Texas, passed by a 245-182 vote.
The 13 Republicans who crossed the aisle to reject Trump’s use of emergency powers were mostly moderates, including Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Will Hurd of Texas. Former House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted in favor of the measure, as did Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Most of the ultra-conservative representatives voted against the resolution, with the exception of Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
Rep. Warren Davidson, the Republican who replaced former House Speaker John Boehner’s seat in Ohio, voted for the resolution but quickly switched his vote to oppose it. Additionally, Republican Rep. John Katko of New York did not vote.
The resolution had more than 200 Democratic cosponsors but just one Republican: Amash, who criticized his fellow Republicans who have decided to back Trump’s decision as hypocritical.
“The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers,” he wrote on Twitter. “If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged his full support for the emergency declaration in advance of Trump’s decision earlier in February.
McCarthy told reporters that he believes Republicans would by and large stand together in defense of the president, adding, “I don’t think anyone questions his legal authority to declare a national emergency.”
As for Senate Republicans, few have mustered the energy to rebuke Trump on the issue. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina penned an op-ed for The Washington Post on Monday announcing he would back a resolution like the one the House passed.
“There is no intellectual honesty in now turning around and arguing that there’s an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach — that it’s acceptable for my party but not thy party,” Tillis wrote.
“As a US senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress,” he added. “As a conservative, I cannot endorse a precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine went as far as to back the lawsuit against the declaration brought forth by California and 15 other states.
“I would not be at all surprised if the courts find that the president’s action is contrary to the separation of powers,” she said in an interview with a Maine NBC affiliate. “I don’t think under the Constitution that he can unilaterally decide to move these funds, which were legally appropriated, from one project to another.”
Democrats call the emergency declaration an abuse of power but note they could use the same authority for their policy goals
Many Democrats have condemned Trump’s decision as an abuse of power and brazen executive overreach. Others have suggested they should use the same authority to enact their own policy goals when the day comes that a Democrat is back in the White House.
“You want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today, the one year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference. “Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would. But a Democratic president can do that. Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.”
“So, the precedent that the President is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans,” she added.
Democrats who are more left-leaning have advocated for a Democratic president to use the same authority to tackle issues such as global climate change.
“Our next President should declare a #NationalEmergency on day 1 to address the existential threat to all life on the planet posed by Climate Change,” Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wrote on Twitter.
While the White House has reiterated that they do not believe they are creating a new precedent with the emergency declaration, Democrats are not in agreement.
In a meeting with reporters on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer likened it to a constitutional crisis.
“People will say we’ve had a lot of emergency declarations. Well that’s correct,” he said. “This is the only one — the only one — that has been used to get around a Congress’ refusal to appropriate money for a particular objective.”
“There is no crisis at the border,” Hoyer added. “There is a crisis now in defending our Constitution.”
Hoyer said he is optimistic the resolution will pass both the House and the Senate, and that Congress “will have gained something,” even if it fails to have enough votes to override a presidential veto.
“This is a vote of principle,” he said. “I think if the conscience of every member and their judgment was utilized as opposed to their political judgments, it would pass overwhelmingly with a veto-proof majority.”