Senate Democrats are trying to end President Donald Trump’s national emergency at the border, again.
This week, Democrats plan to force a vote on a resolution terminating the emergency Trump first declared in February. It’ll be the second time they’ve pushed a vote on this specific declaration, something they have the ability to do every six months, as laid out in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.
The last time Democrats tried to block the emergency in March, the resolution passed, but was vetoed by Trump. During that vote, Democrats were able to get 12 Republicans to join with them. Several disagreed with the precedent the declaration would set for a president’s use of executive power, and opted to cross party lines to express their opposition.
This time around, as Trump has begun raiding military construction budgets in order to fund the wall, the measure is intended to put Republicans — especially vulnerable senators in swing states — on the spot, again. And they won’t be able to avoid it: Because this resolution is “privileged,” a term that applies to measures the upper chamber must consider, Republicans will be unable to prevent it from coming to the floor.
“The Trump administration has proposed pilfering funds from projects in 23 states, three US territories and military installations in 20 countries, including $80 million from projects in North Carolina,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech on Tuesday. “How do we say to the men and women who risked their lives for us ... that we’re taking their money away?”
The vote is putting vulnerable Republicans in a difficult position as the administration takes money from their states for the border wall
The vote has little chance of passing given the Senate’s Republican majority — instead, it’s intended to put Republicans in a difficult position.
It’s taking place, after all, as the Trump administration actively raids $3.6 billion in funding for 127 projects across the country. By holding this vote, Senate Democrats are asking lawmakers if they’re comfortable with the president moving this money to advance a project that has very little impact on their constituents. Effectively, it’s pushing senators to choose between support for Trump and concerns they might have about the funds that are being siphoned from state budgets.
As Vox’s Alex Ward has reported, about half of all 50 states would be affected by the planned funding shifts. Projects including improvements to the West Point military academy and natural disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are among those that would lose money.
Such efforts have garnered pushback not only from Democrats, but Republicans as well. Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah, said they were concerned with the decision to move state funding for the border wall. “Funding the border wall is an important priority, and the Executive Branch should use the appropriate channels in Congress, rather than divert already appropriated funding away from military construction projects and therefore undermining military readiness,” Romney said in a statement.
Senators in swing states like Colorado, Arizona, and North Carolina are the ones in the most precarious position as the vote approaches. If they vote in favor of blocking the emergency, they risk Trump’s wrath and the threat of a potential primary challenger — something Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) already experienced when he initially opposed the president’s national emergency earlier this year. If they vote in favor of keeping the declaration, they’re condoning the use of state funds for the border wall.
It’s a Catch-22 Democrats are hoping to use to their advantage.