In a sharp political debate which broke mainly along party lines, the House voted Tuesday evening to block President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to funnel more money to border security, as Democrats denounced the President's unilateral executive actions, but fell far short of the votes needed to override a threatened veto.
"President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency at the southern border, to siphon funds for his border wall, is an unconstitutional, grotesque abuse of power," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).
"We must reject this unconstitutional power grab," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), as Democrats argued that the President was using a 'fake emergency' to get money for a border wall which the Congress had expressly refused to approved.
"President Trump is acting like a dictator," said Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA). "Building the wall even faster is not an emergency."
The final vote in the House was 245 to 182, as 13 Republicans broke ranks to oppose the President.
"I support President Trump and I support the wall," said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), one of the few GOP lawmakers to cross the President, as Massie said Mr. Trump was overstepping his authority.
In order to be consistent in preserving the constitutional structure of our Republic, I will be voting for the resolution to prevent the President from using a national emergency declaration to re-appropriate money for the wall.— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 26, 2019
Republicans said the House vote was a 'charade,' as they accused Democrats of playing politics over the border battle.
"Protect this national emergency to protect American lives," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who argued there was no reason not to commit more resources to the border to stop both illegal immigration and illegal drugs.
"Allow the President to do the job he was elected to do," said Rep. Michael Burgess (D-TX).
The national emergency declaration by the President would allow him to tap $3.6 billion in military construction money from the Pentagon, and divert that to a border wall.
At a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, top military commanders said there was still no decision on what projects at what military bases would be delayed in order to fund the wall.
"The actual funding is being worked by the Secretary of Defense as we speak," said Air Force Gen. Terrance O'Shaughnessy, the head of the U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for security of the borders in the continental United States.
What it means is at this point - lawmakers don't know if money will be taken from military construction projects in their home districts and states.
Next stop for this resolution is the Senate, which by law must vote on the measure in the next few weeks.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) had said that they would support the resolution to block the President's action.
Just one more Republican vote would allow the plan to pass in the Senate, and head to the President's desk for Mr. Trump's first veto.
It wasn’t clear if that would happen, even though there is clearly a sense of concern among GOP lawmakers about the President’s decision.
.@SenThomTillis (R-NC) on National Emergency Declaration: "I respectfully disagree with the president. " He also says, "What I worry about are future presidents and what they might do if we set this precedent going into the future." pic.twitter.com/OwtT97YDUp— CSPAN (@cspan) February 26, 2019
"We had a very fulsome discussion of this issue," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after a lunchtime meeting between GOP Senators and Vice President Mike Pence.
"It dominated the entire discussions about the legality, the appropriateness," said McConnell, who said he 'couldn't handicap the outcome at this point.'
But - at this point - while the resolution has passed the House, and could get through the Senate as well in coming weeks - getting to a veto-proof majority seems out of the question.
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