US House fails to override Trump's veto over wall emergency

Randy Kelley
March 27, 2019

Trump declared the national emergency on February 15 in an attempt to bypass Congress and move taxpayer funds for the wall away from other uses already approved by the legislature. That hands him a victory because his declaration of a national emergency at the Southwest border will remain in effect. "The House and Senate resoundingly rejected the President's lawless power grab, yet the President has chosen to continue to defy the Constitution, the Congress and the will of the American people", Pelosi said in a statement at the time.

House Democratic leaders were under no illusion that the veto override would pass. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that the point of the vote is to make it clear the new Democratic-controlled House won't tolerate the President's persistence for a border wall.

"What we have here is an act of constitutional vandalism - the executive trying to steal the power of the purse from Congress", said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. One Democrat and two Republicans did not vote. "Today's vote simply reaffirms Congressional Democrats are the party of Open Borders, Drugs and Crime!"

Trump's position was possibly strengthened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion after a 22-month investigation that the Republican president's campaign team did not collude with Russian interference in the 2016 election. The bipartisan funding bill for this fiscal year passed by Congress authorized $1.375 billion - far short of the $5.7 billion the president wanted.

Tuesday's vote bolsters Trump's drive to build a wall along the boundary with Mexico, a hallmark of his 2016 presidential campaign and a priority of his presidency. "The president is using the authority Congress has given him", said Republican Representative Sam Graves.

Congress had sent Trump a resolution annulling the national emergency that Trump declared at the US-Mexico border.

Trump, who campaigned heavily on hard-line immigration rhetoric, said he has the authority to declare a national emergency under a 1976 law. Though the list was tentative, Democrats were asserting that GOP lawmakers were endangering local bases to pay for the wall.

The multi-state lawsuit challenging the emergency declaration argues that money appropriated to their respective states could be at risk as a result of the White House's decision to reprogram certain funds. Trump's declaration was the 60th presidential emergency under that statute, but the first aimed at spending that Congress explicitly denied, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks the law.

The Senate was forced to take up the resolution because of its privileged status, and it passed, 59-41, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats in support. Because the veto override vote failed in the House, it will not go to the Senate - sparing senators from having to take another vote on an issue that deeply divided Republicans in the chamber. Another 30 would have to defect to override his veto.

Twelve GOP senators, almost 1 in 4, ended up opposing him.

With the House override failing, the Senate won't attempt its own override and the veto will stand.

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