More than a half-dozen Republican senators are expected to support a measure blocking Donald Trump’s emergency declaration at the US border, which could force the president to choose between exercising his veto or risk abandoning his long-planned wall.
On Thursday Mitt Romney announced he would join other GOP senators and Democrats in supporting the resolution of disapproval, which is scheduled for a vote in the Senate later on Thursday. Republican senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander have all indicated that they will also vote for the resolution. Four other Republican senators have also left the door open to supporting it.
Should enough Republicans join the chamber’s 45 Democrats in blocking Mr Trump’s resolution, it would mark the president’s second big defeat in the Republican-controlled Senate in less than 24 hours.
On Wednesday evening the Senate voted for a second time to end US military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen by a vote of 54 to 46, raising the possibility that Mr Trump will have to use his veto powers to block that resolution as well.
In the lead-up to the Senate’s vote on the emergency declaration, the White House launched a last-minute campaign to win over some of the body’s wavering Republican senators. On Thursday morning, Mr Trump issued one last stark warning to Republican senators who defied the White House.
“A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime and the Open Border Democrats!” Mr Trump warned on Twitter.
Yet even Mr Trump appeared resigned to the fact that the eleventh-hour cajoling had failed to persuade enough Republican lawmakers to change their planned votes.
“I’ll probably have to veto,” Mr Trump conceded in the Oval Office a few hours after his tweet on Thursday morning, while continuing to defend the constitutionality of his decision.
A two-thirds majority vote in Congress is required to override a presidential veto. It seemed unlikely that the Senate would be able to muster that level of support for the measure, even despite the recent GOP defections.
Mr Trump declared a national emergency at the border last month after failing to obtain a government funding deal that would secure enough money to pay for the border wall, a key promise from his 2016 presidential campaign. Already, more than a dozen US states have filed a lawsuit to block the president’s action.
The same resolution under consideration in the Senate on Thursday has already passed the House of Representative by a vote of 245 to 182, with 13 Republicans joining House Democrats to back the resolution.
In the Senate, several Republican lawmakers who have suggested they will vote in favour of blocking the emergency declaration said they supported Mr Trump’s plan to erect a wall or barrier on the border.
“This is not a vote against border security,” Mr Romney said in a statement on Thursday. In fact, he said, he agreed with Mr Trump’s plans for a border wall. Rather, he said he was worried about the consequences Mr Trump’s declaration would have for the separation of powers in the US government down the line.
“For the executive branch to override a law passed by Congress would make it the ultimate power rather than a balancing power . . . I am seriously concerned that overreach by the executive branch is an invitation to further expansion and abuse by future presidents,” Mr Romney said.
Lamar Alexander, a Republican senator from Tennessee, said ahead of the vote: “Never before has a president asked for funding, the Congress has not provided it, and then the president has used the national emergency act of 1976 to spend the money anyway.”
“By declaring a national emergency, the president’s action comes into direct conflict with congress’s authority to determine the appropriation of funds, a power vested in Congress,” said Susan Collins, Republican senator of Maine.
“This issue is not about strengthening our border security, a goal that I support and have voted to advance. [Rather] it is a solemn occasion involving whether or not this body will stand up for institutional prerogatives and will support the separation of powers enshrined in our constitution.”