House OKs bill to block Donald Trump’s national emergency over border wall

Jared Huffman votes for resolution, calls Trump's declarations a 'sham'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about a resolution to block President Donald Trump’s emergency border security declaration on Capitol Hill. (The Associated Press)
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Democrats ignored a veto threat and rammed legislation through the House Tuesday that would stymie President Donald Trump’s bid for billions of extra dollars for his border wall, escalating a clash over whether he was abusing his powers to advance his paramount campaign pledge.

Huffman

The House’s 245-182 vote to block Trump’s national emergency declaration fell well below the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override his promised veto. Top Republicans worked to keep defections as low as possible — 13 backed the Democrats’ resolution — underscoring their desire to avoid a tally suggesting that Trump’s hold on lawmakers was weakening.

North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman was among the House Democrats who voted in favor of the resolution, calling Trump’s move a “sham declaration.”

“President Trump’s emergency declaration is an unlawful grab for power, and a desperate attempt to get billions for his ineffective border wall contrary to the explicit direction of Congress,” said Huffman in a prepared statement on Tuesday evening. “The president is not above the law, and he cannot be allowed to undermine the Constitution or the will of the American people by manufacturing a crisis that does not exist.”

Huffman added that this is something that should be bipartisan.

“This issue transcends party lines and partisan politics: President Trump’s sham emergency is a threat to fundamental tenets of our nation’s government, and Congress cannot look the other way,” he said.

The vote throws the political hot potato to the Republican-run Senate, where there were already enough GOP defections to edge it to the cusp of passage.

Vice President Mike Pence used a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a dangerous crisis at the border, but there were no signs he’d succeeded.

“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s planning a vote within the next three weeks. He even said Republicans remained uncertain about the legality of Trump’s move, telling reporters, “We’re in the process of weighing that.”

Senate passage would force Trump’s first veto, which the House vote demonstrated that Congress would surely fail to overturn. But the showdown was forcing Republicans to cast uncomfortable votes pitting their support for a president wildly popular with GOP voters against fears that his expansive use of emergency powers would invite future Democratic presidents to do likewise for their own pet policies.

House Republicans who joined all voting Democrats to support the Democratic resolution included moderates from competitive districts like Fred Upton of Michigan and libertarian-leaning conservatives like Thomas Massie from Kentucky.

The White House wrote to lawmakers formally threatening to veto the legislation. The letter said blocking the emergency declaration would “undermine the administration’s ability to respond effectively to the ongoing crisis at the Southern Border.”

Republicans said Democrats were driven by politics and a desire to oppose Trump at every turn, and said Trump had clear authority to declare an emergency to protect the country. They also defended the president’s claims of a security crisis along the boundary with Mexico, which he has said is ravaged by drug smugglers, human traffickers and immigrants trying to sneak into the U.S. illegally.

“We are at war on the Southern border with the drug cartels,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas.

Trump has asserted that barriers would stop drugs from Mexico from entering the U.S. In fact, government figures show that 90 percent of drugs intercepted from Mexico are caught at ports of entry, not remote areas where barriers would be constructed.

Democrats said Republicans repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of flouting the Constitution, which gives Congress control over spending, but are ignoring Trump’s effort to do the same.

“Is your oath of office to Donald Trump, or is your oath of office to the Constitution?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked Republicans.

Trump’s push for the wall reflected a continuation of the anti-immigrant views that helped fuel his election, some Democrats said.

“Since when do we call human beings in need a national emergency?” said Mexican-born Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill. “Is he running out of insults for people like me?”

Democrats also said the crisis is a fiction manufactured by Trump to dance around Congress’ vote this month to provide less than $1.4 billion for barrier construction. That was well below the $5.7 billion Trump demanded as he futilely forced a record-setting 35-day federal shutdown.

“The president does not get to override Congress in a raucous temper tantrum over his inability to broker a deal” with lawmakers for more money, said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, sponsor of the one-sentence measure blocking the declaration, called Trump’s move “constitutional vandalism.”

Times-Standard city editor Ruth Schneider contributed to this report.

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