WASHINGTON – The Senate voted 59-41 Thursday to block President Donald Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration of a national emergency, with 12 Republicans joining the 47 Democrats to send a message to the president that he had overstepped his authority.
Trump said he declared the emergency because illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border had reached a “crisis,” allowing him to divert military construction funds to build a wall along the border.
Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued humanitarian and security issues at the border were severe and expressed his support for the president’s declaration.
“I take the separation of power very seriously… but President Trump has operated within existing laws,” he said. “The crisis at our border is all too real.”
Senate Minority Leader Senator Schumer urged Republican colleagues to consider the symbolism of the bill to block the emergency declaration.
“This is not an issue of the wall. It goes way beyond that,” he said. “This resolution is about more than the president. … It’s about the presidency.”
Schumer acknowledged the difficult position Republicans were in when it came to voting against Trump.
“Choose country over party,” he said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he believes there is a crisis at the border, but he was opposed to using an emergency declaration to fix it.
“No president should be able to use the National Emergency Act to spend money that Congress has refused to provide,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also voted in favor of the bill to nullify the national emergency, expressing concern about future abuses of power.
“We must stand up and defend Congress,” she said. “Defend institutional powers as the framers intended we would.”
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, chastised Trump’s disregard for Congress and compared the move to that of an authoritarian.
“When is it going to stop?” he asked. “Over the past two years we’ve seen an erosion of checks and balances.”
Leahy chastised Republicans who planned those who plan to vote no simply “for the sake of appeasing the president.”
But the 59-41 vote indicates there is not enough Senate support to override a presidential veto, which requires a two-thirds majority. Trump tweeted after the vote that he will veto the bill, the first veto of his presidency.