President Trump has declared a national emergency in order to pay for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but will Congress block it? That’s a long shot — but we can’t rule it out either.
Here’s the basic process, as the New York Times explained in an article after Trump’s declaration. Congress can take up a resolution to end a presidential national emergency declaration. If such a resolution passes in one chamber, the other must bring it up for a vote within 18 days. If the resolution passes both chambers and the president vetoes it, a two-thirds majority in Congress can override that veto.
In the House, Democrats say they are strongly considering a resolution to override Trump’s emergency declaration. If they take it up for a vote, the resolution is almost certain to pass — Democrats have a 235-197 majority in the House.
That would move the legislation to the Senate, where Republican Leader Mitch McConnell — although initially wary of Trump declaring a national emergency — has now expressed his support for the move. But there does not appear to be a way for him to avoid a Senate vote on this measure. And such a vote will force Senate Republicans, many of whom have said they are wary of presidents overextending their power at the expense of Congress, to choose between that principle of limiting executive power and backing a president with strong support among party activists on one of his signature initiatives, the border wall.
Republicans have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, so only four defections and this resolution would pass. (The resolution is not subject to rules that would require 60 votes for it to move forward.) By FiveThirtyEight’s count, at least eight GOP senators — Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey — have said they oppose the national emergency declaration. Opposing the declaration and voting for a resolution to end it are not the same thing, but more than a dozen other Republican senators have also expressed reservations about Trump’s move.1
Statement on National emergency
Alexander TN 2/16 “Unnecessary, unwi … Opposes Barrasso WY 2/11 “I would prefer we … Concerns/doubts Blackburn TN Blunt MO 2/15 “No president has … Concerns/doubts Boozman AR 2/14 Boozman spokesman … Undecided Braun IN 2/14 “This legislation … Supports Burr NC Capito WV 2/15 “Our agreement mak … Supports Cassidy LA 2/15 Liberal judges wi … Supports Collins ME 2/14 “Declaring a natio … Opposes Cornyn TX 2/14 “My concerns about … Concerns/doubts Cotton AR 2/15 The offices of Cot … Undecided Cramer ND 2/16 “As he’s said from … Supports Crapo ID 2/14 “The President has … Supports Cruz TX 2/15 “Senator Ted Cruz, … Undecided Daines MT 2/15 “We need more forc … Supports Enzi WY Ernst IA Fischer NE 2/15 “I appreciate the … Supports Gardner CO 2/14 “Congress is most … Concerns/doubts Graham SC 2/14 “I think this is a … Supports Grassley IA 2/14 “I wish he wouldn’ … Concerns/doubts Hawley MO 2/15 “The president is … Supports Hoeven ND 2/16 “U.S. presidents f … Supports Hyde-Smith MS Inhofe OK 2/15 “U.S. Sen. Jim Inh … Supports Isakson GA 1/11 “I have a lot of t … Concerns/doubts Johnson WI 2/14 “It would be a pre … Concerns/doubts Kennedy LA 2/14 Said he supports T … Supports Lankford OK 2/13 “The best thing t … Concerns/doubts Lee UT 2/15 “The president’s n … Concerns/doubts McConnell KY 2/14 “I indicated I’m g … Supports McSally AZ 2/15 “Earlier this week … Undecided Moran KS 2/15 “Throughout my tim … Concerns/doubts Murkowski AK 2/14 “I don’t think thi … Opposes Paul KY 2/14 “I’m not in favor … Opposes Perdue GA 1/29 He continued to de … Supports Portman OH 2/14 “I would prefer we … Concerns/doubts Risch ID 2/14 “But other Senate … Supports Roberts KS 2/14 If he had his drut … Undecided Romney UT 2/14 “I will reserve ju … Concerns/doubts Rounds SD 2/14 “If you get anothe … Concerns/doubts Rubio FL 2/14 “We have a crisis … Opposes Sasse NE 2/15 “We absolutely hav … Opposes Scott FL 2/15 “I applaud the pre … Supports Scott SC 2/14 “I would not oppos … Supports Shelby AL 2/14 “I’m not concerned … Supports Sullivan AK 2/15 A spokesman for Se … Undecided Thune SD 2/14 “We don’t think th … Concerns/doubts Tillis NC 2/15 “I don’t believe a … Opposes Toomey PA 2/14 “I never thought t … Opposes Wicker MS 2/14 “As a practical ma … Concerns/doubts Young IN 2/15 “I need to learn m … Undecided
Yes, we know that in the past GOP senators have hinted that they will break with Trump on key legislation and then not followed through. That said, we are talking about only four senators needing to break with the president on this resolution. And three of the Republicans to come out against the declaration — Collins, Murkowski and Paul — were key figures in stopping the GOP from repealing Obamacare in 2017, so they have in at least one major instance actually followed through on their concerns with a Trump initiative.
In other words, there’s a real chance that both houses of Congress pass this legislation. A bill adopted by the GOP-controlled Senate rejecting Trump’s emergency declaration would be important symbolically. And it would force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency, which will bring even more attention to his already unpopular move to declare a national emergency.