Republicans Summon Rare (And Risky) Rebuke
The answer to the question, as you may have guessed, is none of them (except Susan Collins of Maine), is up for reelection in 2020. Interestingly, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who kind of sparked the defiance among non-“usual suspect” Republicans, changed his mind at the last minute and voted to support Trump. Just a little over two weeks ago, we reported on the strong and poignant piece Tillis penned in the Washington Post in which he (originally) said:
“I am a member of the Senate, and I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power. It is my responsibility…to preserve the separation of powers….
And in that same piece he pledged flat out that he would:
“Vote in favor of the resolution disapproving of the president’s national-emergency declaration, if and when it comes before the Senate.”
He didn’t. More than likely because he is up for reelection next year. And apparently decided public rejection of the President’s will is too politically risky. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported Republican operatives were indeed poised to draft primary challengers to Tillis, had he voted as he initially intended.
The final vote? 59 to 41 in favor of the resolution to reverse Trump’s national emergency declaration.
And although more Republican Senators voted against Trump than initially anticipated, the awkwardness and potential peril of the moment was palpable, with many of them going to great lengths to explain they are not against the President’s policies, just his method.
(But if that’s the case, why didn’t they conjure up a wall for Trump when they controlled both Houses of Congress?)
And if you want to look at it in a glass-is-half-empty kind of way, 41 Senators, Republicans all, were perfectly willing to make themselves subservient to this President, and fail to defend one of the most central parts of the Constitution.
Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas Tweeted three pages of handwritten notes; a “plus and minus column” kind of thing, in which it takes him to the top of the second page (after using the first page exclusively to praise Trump’s policies and say the President “has not been fairly treated”) to get to the crux of the problem. Which when he painstakingly, finally does, he puts it very simply:
“The declaration of an emergency under these circumstances is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.”
The 12 Republican Senators who voted to reverse the emergency declaration are: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
So a good cross-section (except, as we’ve said, of those Republicans up for reelection in 2020). Several of those Senators are the same folks who’d been scrambling to find an alternative that Trump would accept, meeting repeatedly with Vice President Mike Pence. A small group of Senators who did end up siding with Trump, showed up at the White House Wednesday night to try to talk Trump into taking an alternate path, but to no avail.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who hasn’t been shy about opposing Trump at other times, voted with the President this time, which surprised many. Sasse had a weird explanation, which goes along the lines that his vote was more against against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, than for Trump, saying her resolution was “too political.” Which is silly, because as we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the “resolution of disapproval” is completely short and sweet. And does zero to require a choice between passing this and more all-encompassing legislation for Congress to take some of the power it gave over the years back from the President. If they want, they can do both. Because all the resolution says is:
“Pursuant to section 202 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622), the national emergency declared by the finding of the President on February 15, 2019, in Proclamation 9844 (84 Fed. Reg. 4949) is hereby terminated.”
Almost immediately following the vote Trump Tweeted one word, all caps: “VETO!” Which of course he’ll do, and then the House and Senate will have to find the votes to overturn that veto, which they probably won’t. Still, it’s the first time more than a couple of moderates and/or iconoclasts in the Republican party have stood up to Trump on virtually anything, so it’s tremendously significant. Not to mention completely necessary.