Nearly six months ago, Donald Trump suffered one of the more notable legislative defeats of his presidency. After declaring a national emergency and giving himself the authority to redirect federal funds to the border in defiance of Congress’ wishes, lawmakers took up a resolution to block the White House’s new policy.
We’d seen some instances in which GOP lawmakers offered rhetorical rebukes of Trump, signaling symbolic dissatisfaction, but this was qualitatively different: it was a substantive measure intended to derail a dubious presidential policy.
The White House seemed to appreciate the differences, and despite having veto power, Trump scrambled, lobbying senators of his own party, demanding that they respect his authority. His efforts had a limited effect: 12 Senate Republicans defied the president and helped pass the resolution.
It was not, however, a one-off. The Washington Post reported this morning:
Senate Democrats plan to force another vote in Congress aimed at overturning President Trump’s border emergency – potentially triggering another standoff between the administration and congressional Republicans over the billions in dollars being siphoned from the Pentagon to pay for Trump’s border wall.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to announce later Tuesday that Democratic senators will force a second vote in the chamber this year on a resolution to terminate Trump’s emergency border declaration, according to a senior Senate Democratic official.
Schumer will reportedly say today that “as stipulated by the National Emergencies Act, Democrats will once again force a vote to terminate the president’s national emergency declaration.”
The word “force” is of particular interest: under the law, Schumer can introduce a privileged resolution that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cannot block.
And while we can probably guess how the process will play out – the measure will pass, only to be vetoed again – that doesn’t mean the effort is theatrical trivia.
What’s happened since the first vote was a shift from the theoretical to the practical: the Trump administration recently announced how, exactly, it’s raiding the Pentagon budget, shifting federal resources away from construction projects around the world that were ready to go, including schools and daycare centers for the children of military personnel.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who’s likely to face a tough re-election campaign in 2020, sided with Trump in February. Will he vote the same way now that the White House has scrapped a multi-million-dollar investment at Peterson Air Force Base in his own state? Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) followed Trump’s instructions earlier this year, too, but that was before the administration diverted $30 million that was supposed to go to the Fort Huachuca Ground Transport Equipment Building in Sierra Vista.
Votes like the one Schumer has in mind will put members like these in a difficult spot. That’s almost certainly the idea.
What’s more, the next vote need not be the last one. As the Post’s report added, “Schumer can bring up the termination resolution again because under the federal emergencies law, Congress can vote to disapprove the emergency every six months. The last vote was on March 14, and Trump promptly issued a veto – the first of his presidency – of the resolution one day later.”
Don’t be surprised if there’s a third vote along these lines in the spring.