Trump issues first veto, continuing border 'emergency'

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

President Trump issued the first veto of his presidency, striking down a resolution that would have terminated his national emergency declaration diverting funding to build the wall.

The Senate voted Thursday by a margin of 59 to 41 to block Trump’s declaration that an emergency on the border with Mexico requires the construction of a wall, a project for which Congress has not appropriated money. A dozen Republicans defected and joined every Democrat in voting yes. The House previously passed the resolution last month, 245 (including 13 Republicans) to 182. Unless more Republicans defect from the president’s position, neither margin would be sufficient to override a veto.

“Today I am vetoing this resolution,” said Trump. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it and I’m very proud to veto it.”

Trump’s reelection campaign began fundraising off the veto early Friday afternoon, sending out an email asking supporters to donate to an “Official Wall Defense Fund.” Homeland Defense Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence were among those who praised Trump’s veto during the Oval Office ceremony.

President Trump endorsing border security, March 15, 2019. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

Shortly after the veto was official, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the vote to potentially override the veto would occur on March 26, saying "House Republicans will have to choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution."

Trump had sought to frame the issue as voting for him or for “Nancy Pelosi, Crime and the Open Border Democrats.” The dozen senators who went against the White House were Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah.

Lee proposed a version of the resolution that would have restricted future emergency declarations while grandfathering in Trump's, but he couldn’t reach a compromise agreement with the White House, and the plan fizzled.

“We tried to cut a deal,” Lee said. “The president didn’t appear interested.”

The wall was a signature campaign issue for Trump, but he was never able to deliver on his promise to make Mexico pay for it, and the issue languished during his first two years in office. The emergency declaration came after Trump failed to win an appropriation for a border wall in a continuing resolution to fund the government last fall. The resulting deadlock shut the government for five weeks, during which time workers were furloughed or forced to work without pay.

In declaring an emergency on Feb. 15, Trump cited drug smuggling across the border from Mexico (misleading), the drop in crime in El Paso, Texas, after a partial border barricade was built there (not true) and reports of women kidnapped, bound with tape and trafficked into the United States across unguarded sections of the border (no evidence exists of this). Hours later, he flew to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a weekend of golf.

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