Washington: In a stunning rebuke to Donald Trump, a dozen Republican senators broke party ranks and sided with Democrats to terminate the US President’s declaration of a national emergency on America’s border with Mexico.
In a 59-41 vote, 12 Republicans joined every Senate Democrat on Thursday in a rare move to block the president’s effort to divert billions in funding to build his long-promised border wall without congressional approval. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last month backed the measure.
The Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the emergency, arguing that the president had exceeded his powers in trying to build a border wall over Congress’ objections, the New York Times reported.
Following the vote, President Trump tweeted, “VETO!”
Trump slammed the vote, calling it a “Democrat-inspired Resolution”.
“I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country,” he said in a tweet.
“I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!” Trump said.
Congress needs a two-thirds majority of both chambers to override a presidential veto, which is viewed as unlikely in this case.
“Never before has a president asked for funding, Congress has not provided it, and the president then has used the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to spend the money anyway,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee.
Trump had sought to frame the vote publicly as not only a declaration of support for his border security policies but as a sign of personal loyalty, the report said.
“It’s pure and simple: It’s a vote for border security; it’s a vote for no crime,” Trump told reporters before the vote, which he declared on Thursday morning on Twitter to be “a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!”.
But he could not overcome concerns among Republican senators about the legality of redirecting USD 3.6 billion from military construction projects toward the border wall, even after Congress explicitly rejected the funding request.
“I believe the use of emergency powers in this circumstance violates the Constitution,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican from Kansas, in a statement.
“This continues our country down the path of all powerful executive ? something those who wrote the Constitution were fearful of,” Moran was quoted as saying.
The Republican senators who stood by Trump insisted that there was an immigration crisis at the southern border and that the order was well within the jurisdiction of the National Emergencies Act, which gives presidents wide-ranging latitude to declare a national emergency.
The vote came a day after the Senate rebuked president Trump on foreign policy by approving a bill to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Trump declared a national emergency last month after signing a funding agreement that did not include the money he requested to build a wall.
His signature ended a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government, which was triggered by a showdown after Congress refused to appropriate the USD 5.7 billion he requested to start construction at the border.
In his annual budget proposal, which Trump sent to Congress this week, the president asked for USD 8.6 billion in funding for his wall, far more than he had previously requested.
A wall along the US-Mexico border was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.