Historically, when presidents veto bills, Congress rarely succeeds in overriding the veto. To do so requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. It is unlikely that anyone seriously believed President Donald Trump’s first veto would be overturned and, on March 26, a vote in the House of Representatives fell well short.
One of the hallmarks of Trump’s presidency has been the refusal, on the part of Democrats, to cooperate on any key issue. Now that Democrats control the House, the fissure between the executive and legislative branches seems unbridgable. It is fitting, then, that Trump’s first veto was not of a legislative effort but of a bill that would have blocked his action on border security.
Strategic Voting for Republicans
Democrats and more than a few Republicans objected to the president’s declaration of a national emergency in order to appropriate funds for border barrier construction. Congress voted to terminate that declaration – hence, Trump’s first veto.
The House voted 248-181 to override the veto, but that was 38 votes short of what was needed to trigger a similar vote in the Senate. The president’s national emergency stands for the time being, though numerous court fights are looming.
For Republicans, it was far easier to cast votes to terminate the declaration. The president had made clear his intention to veto that bill, should it land on his desk. Overriding his veto was a far riskier move politically. Had Congress prevailed, the border wall – Trump’s signature election pledge – would have been a dead project. Not too many Republicans would relish the thought of going into the 2020 election on the record for having killed the president’s plan for border security. Just 14 House Republicans voted to override the veto.
Democrats Rack Up Another Loss
The failed House vote represents another political blow to Democrats, who have not had a good week. The Mueller report cleared the president of conspiring with Russian officials to subvert the 2016 election. On the campaign trail, Trump promised a lot of winning. It does seem to be one of the promises he has managed to keep.
For their part, Democrats continue to insist there simply is no crisis at the border. Those claims appear increasingly ridiculous, given the number of migrants arriving from Central America. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that both Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are being overwhelmed and that the entire system in place to deal with illegal aliens is at breaking point.
Immigration and border security are likely to be key issues in the 2020 campaign – not just for the president but for down-ballot races. In the run-up to campaign season, the president will push ahead with border barrier construction, and Democrats will do everything they can to obstruct that effort. Given Trump’s 2016 success – due, in no small part, to campaigning on border security – and with a roaring economy at his back, Democrats may have been wise to give him his border wall and pick other battles. They just cannot allow him a victory on any issue, though, and that will be their downfall.