The Hill reported on 14 March that the US Senate voted to reject President Trump’s recently declared National Emergency at the US-Mexico border, a move the President made in order to secure funds needed for further construction of the highly controversial Border Wall.
With a 59-41 margin in total, including twelve GOP Senators who voted with the Democrats, the resolution of disapproval passed. It also passed in the House last month, predictably, 245-182, but this was much closer to being a vote strictly along party lines.
While the measure is all but sure to be the first to receive the Presidential veto in Mr. Trump’s term of office, it reflects the viewpoints of politicians over the ongoing issue of border security for the US very clearly.
Here are the Republicans who voted with the Democrats, listed by State:
- Alaska: Lisa Murkowski
- Florida: Marco Rubio
- Kansas: Jerry Moran
- Kentucky: Rand Paul (we reported on his decision here)
- Maine: Susan Collins
- Mississippi: Roger Wicker
- Missouri: Roy Blunt
- Ohio: Rob Portman
- Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey
- Tennessee: Lamar Alexander
- Utah: Mike Lee and Mitt Romney
Texas Senator John Cornyn was one of the senators that supported the controversial declaration, and The Hill reported that he considered the overall outcome of this to be a win for the President, due to the fact that his veto will not be overridden in the House of Representatives.
Given the range and reputation of the senators in this group, it is likely that this is not a “Trump-hater” bastion of Republicans. Senator Rand Paul noted Constitutional concerns in his open letter expressing his intention to not support the declaration. Similar thoughts came to the fore as spoken by Senators Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander, as The Hill reports:
GOP supporters of the resolution, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, cast their vote not as a rebuke of Trump’s border wall but instead over a constitutional question about Congress’s role in funding the government.
“That is why this issue is not about strengthening our border security, a goal that I support and have voted to advance. …It is a solemn occasion involving whether or not this body will stand up for its institutional prerogatives and will support the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” Collins said. “We must stand up and defend Congress’s institutional powers as the Framers intended that we would. Even when doing so is inconvenient or goes against the outcome that we might prefer.”
Collins said separately that while she had talked to White House staff, she had not spoken directly to Trump about her vote. She added that she expected he would not “be happy” but that she was “letting the chips fall.”
“But I’m a United States senator and I feel my job is to stand up for the Constitution.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, argued that a vote against the emergency declaration was a “check on the executive [that] is a crucial source of our freedom.”
The fact that forty-one Senators did support the President may give lie to this noble-sounding series of statements.
Why? Because the outcome of this is intended for there to be no wall at the border.
While there is certainly a question of separation of powers here because this particular Emergency Declaration was intended to free up access to money (which only the House of Representatives, constitutionally, can allocate), the other side of the argument is that the President, as leader of the Executive Branch of the American government, is responsible for guarding the nation’s security. During the 35 day partial shutdown, a great deal of media attention was focused on the border, and it became clear to more and more Americans that there is indeed a crisis of security taking place there.
Illegal immigrants pelted US Border Patrol agents with rocks thrown over barriers there, they tried to rush the barrier at the Tijuana-California checkpoint on a number of occasions, major drug shipments were caught at the border and the number of illegal migrants is now expected to go north of one million apprehensions, a two- to three-fold increase over those caught in 2018. The Hill noted that these factors did have an effect on some who voted:
There were some last-minute surprises. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who had said he would vote for the resolution blocking Trump, announced moments before the vote started that he was changing his mind.
“We have to recognize that we have a crisis at the border, 76,000 people crossing illegally in February alone. We have narcotics flooding our country, poisoning our children and adults of all ages,” he said from the Senate floor.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a top 2020 target for Democrats, supported Trump, while Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, did not.
The Senate Majority Leader also was supportive of the President:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made no secret of the fact that Trump’s emergency declaration has sparked fierce, lengthy discussions within the caucus. But he urged his caucus to support Trump, arguing that there was a “border security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border.”
“It’s no secret I take the Senate as an institution extremely seriously. I take the separation of powers extremely seriously. And I take Congress’s prerogative over appropriations extremely seriously. But — as I argued yesterday in the context of the Yemen resolution — the Senate should not be in the business of misusing specific resolutions to express opinions on more general matters,” McConnell said.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a close ally of Trump’s, also knocked Democrats for their “howls of outrage” against the White House.
“We have reached a moment of crisis, but it’s not a constitutional crisis. It’s a crisis at the border, a crisis of American sovereignty. When hundreds of thousands of foreigners arrive at the southern border and demand entry, that’s not migration. That’s an emergency,” he said.
The crisis at the border continues. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Neilsen gave her comments, distilling the matter into rather clear language:
There is a very clear argument that this border status is a threat to the sovereignty of the United States. This is not to repeat platitudes that sound great politically, but there is precedent behind the claim. Any nation that abdicates its right to allow or disallow immigrants, based on any criteria, but especially their criminal record or attitude towards the country they are entering, places itself in danger. This happened in Germany during the Syrian migrant waves, as well as in other European nations, which now sport ethnic Muslim ghettos that are so dangerous that the police will not even enter such places.
Yet at the same time, the other side of the debate speaks to the idea of compassion for the migrants, who in the most part, are fleeing very poor living conditions and simply want a better chance at life. For these people, the President and other “strong-borders” people have repeatedly stated that they are welcome to come, but that they must submit themselves through the proper immigration procedure.
The observation that this immigration procedure itself has many problems also must come into consideration.
However, this vote’s outcome gives a strong indication of politics playing to the “letter of the law” rather than the “heart of the law.” And behind that, according to sources like Tucker Carlson of Fox News, is the desire to keep the border open for the sake of various short and long term economic and political gains. We attach his assessment here, because it is extremely informative.