November 16, 2019
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Senate votes to overturn emergency border declaration, lacks veto-proof majority

Alex Brandon | AP
Alex Brandon | AP
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks with reporters as she heads to the Senate for a vote, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington.

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted for the second time Wednesday to overturn President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, once again falling well short of a veto-proof majority needed to block the money.

The 54-41 vote was similar to the outcome in March, the first time the Senate voted on the disapproval resolution. Eleven Republicans sided with Democrats on Wednesday to back the measure, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who co-sponsored this measure and backed the previous one in March.

The resolution still must clear the House before being sent to Trump. He vetoed a similar measure several months ago. Senators had important new information as they cast their votes Wednesday – although it didn’t change the result.

When senators last voted on the issue, the Pentagon had not released a list of the $3.6 billion in military construction projects that were being canceled to pay for Trump’s border barrier. That list was released this month, and senators have a list of the specific projects in their states that are being scrapped to free up funding for Trump’s wall.

That dynamic created new pressure for GOP senators, especially those up for reelection in 2020, to weigh their allegiance to Trump and his border wall against their support for much-needed projects at military bases and installations back home.

“If Republicans choose to stand with President Trump, they’ll be saying they fully support allowing the president to take money from our military to fund a border wall,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, said ahead of the vote.

Such arguments failed to sway GOP senators who voted for Trump’s emergency declaration the first time around, and no one changed their vote Wednesday.

“How would I square voting differently?” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked reporters Tuesday. Cornyn is up for reelection, and his state is losing some $38.5 million in funds for projects in El Paso and San Antonio.

He declared such concerns “way too parochial.” and expressed confidence that the money for the Texas projects would ultimately be restored, even though Democrats have insisted they will not go along with that plan.

Under an obscure law, the White House has said that declaring a national emergency at the border allows the president to take money from military construction projects already approved by Congress and spend it on his wall instead. Democrats – and some Republicans – have tried to block him, without luck.

Trump issued the emergency declaration in February after a 35-day partial government shutdown that occurred because Congress refused to give him all the money he wanted for his wall.

The law allows Democrats to force repeated votes aimed at overturning the national emergency through disapproval resolutions that can pass with a simple majority vote. In March, 59 senators, including 12 Republicans, voted to overturn the national emergency, while 41 senators voted to uphold it.

The vote total in favor of the disapproval resolution was lower on Wednesday because five senators were absent, including some Democrats who are campaigning for president, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who had voted with Democrats the first time around.

The resolution that passed in March was ultimately vetoed by Trump, and Congress didn’t override his veto. The same outcome is expected this time around.

The list of military construction projects being canceled, which includes 41 projects in 23 states, ranges from upgrading a middle school at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky to building a shooting range at a base in Jackson, Mississippi.

 



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