WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, predicted Monday that a resolution seeking to block President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border would pass in the Republican-led Senate but ultimately not survive a veto.
McConnell shared his assessment with reporters in Kentucky after a fourth Republican — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky — indicated over the weekend that he would join Democrats in opposing Trump’s declaration, which the president is using in a bid to spend more on border barriers than authorized by Congress.
“I think what is clear in the Senate is that there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval, which will then be vetoed by the president and then, in all likelihood, the veto will be upheld in the House,” McConnell said.
The House previously passed the measure to block Trump’s declaration, but Democrats in the chamber fell well short of securing the two-thirds vote that would be necessary to overturn a threatened veto from Trump.
While Trump appears to have the votes to withstand a veto in the Republican-led Senate as well, passage of the measure would still serve as rebuke of the president’s policy.
McConnell told reporters that he had hoped Trump “wouldn’t take that particular path” of declaring a national emergency.
McConnell said he agreed with Republicans who have argued that the declaration could set a precedent for future Democratic presidents to declare emergencies on issues on which they cannot have their way in Congress.
“That’s one reason I argued, obviously without success, to the president that he not take this route,” McConnell said.
Paul said in a speech Saturday in Kentucky that he “can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president,” the Bowling Green Daily News reported.
“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul said, according to the newspaper. “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”
Paul joins fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina in opposing Trump’s move.
Fifty-three senators caucus with Republicans and 47 with Democrats, meaning that four Republican defections would be enough to ensure passage.
The defections have come despite warnings from Trump about negative political consequences.
“I think that really it’s a very dangerous thing for people to be voting against border security,” Trump said during an interview last week with Sean Hannity of Fox News. “I really think that Republicans that vote against border security and the wall, I think you know, I’ve been OK at predicting things, I think they put themselves at great jeopardy.”
The president’s national emergency declaration, issued Feb. 15 after Congress failed to produce the border-wall money he wants, allows him to access $3.6 billion in funds allocated for military construction projects.
That money would be tapped after the administration exhausts funding from other sources, including $1.375 billion provided by Congress; $2.5 billion from a Pentagon counter-drug account that the administration can access without an emergency declaration; and $601 million from a forfeiture fund in the Treasury Department.
Washington Post writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.