The United States Senate voted March 14 on a resolution to terminate President Donald Trump’s National Emergency declaration over the border crisis. The resolution was passed with a 59-41 vote. Since the House of Representatives had already passed the resolution, it will now go to the president’s desk – where it will almost certainly receive Donald Trump’s first veto. The president has already made his intention clear and, immediately following the Senate vote, tweeted a one-word confirmation: “VETO!”
Once a president vetoes a bill or resolution passed by Congress, the legislative branch needs a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override that veto. All U.S. presidents, collectively, have issued 2574 vetoes and only 111 of those have been overridden by Congress.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
Republicans Risk Accusation of Opposing Border Security
It is unlikely that either the House or the Senate will come up with a veto-killing majority, in this case. Congressional Democrats may claim that their objection to the president’s national emergency declaration is about separation of powers but, in reality, it is about preventing the president from fulfilling one of his principle 2016 campaign promises: to build a southern border wall.
Some Republicans were able to make a statement about the constitutional powers of Congress and register their displeasure at Trump’s decision. They were well aware that the president would veto and that their votes against him were of little consequence. When it comes to overriding that veto, Republicans have a far more difficult choice: Quite simply, a vote to defy the president and deny him the chance to repurpose federal funds to border construction would be framed by Trump as a vote against securing the border.
Those Republicans who voted with Democrats to terminate the declaration were spooked by the bogus threat that future presidents could invoke national emergency powers to essentially legislate from the White House. However, former President Barack Obama modified federal immigration law with his creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He did not need a national emergency for that, and Democrats in Congress uttered not one word of objection.
Republican fears of a precedent being set for executive overreach, then, are simply hollow. If a future president is sufficiently determined to bypass Congress, he or she need not rely on national emergency powers to do so.
Beyond the Coming Veto
Once Congress fails to overcome Trump’s veto of its resolution, the fight over border wall funding will likely move to the courts. Several states are already taking legal action against the administration. This battle is almost certain to rage through the 2020 campaign season and will, by default, become a major feature of the next general election.
Certainly, Democrats will claim a victory, for now, and point to the president’s coming veto as an unconstitutional power-grab though, perhaps, it was their consistent failure to address the nation’s immigration issues at the legislative level that has created this situation. Congressional Republicans share that failure.
Perhaps the question our lawmakers should be asking themselves is not what can be done to prevent a president usurping the authority of Congress to appropriate, but why Congress itself is so broken that it would drive any president to take such action in the first place.