Trump Makes Low-Energy Push to Halt GOP Border Revolt

Burgess Everett and Nancy Cook, Politico, March 4, 2019

President Donald Trump is taking a surprisingly low-key approach to a bipartisan rebuke on his border wall and the first likely veto of his presidency.

At least for now, Trump is doing little to try and dissuade the approximately dozen Republican senators who are considering voting to block his national emergency declaration on the southern border, according to Republican senators and aides.

Despite previous warnings that GOP lawmakers could put themselves in “great jeopardy” by defying him, wavering senators said Trump is not directly lobbying them to stick with him. {snip}

The president took the news that he was officially headed for a defeat in stride, said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who spoke to the president on Sunday after he announced he would become the deciding vote against Trump.

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Paul added that 10 or “possibly more” senators would ultimately vote against Trump next week on the House-passed resolution of disapproval. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). acknowledged on Monday that Trump will lose the vote, but the House will not be able to override the president’s veto.

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But because of Trump’s veto threat and the slim odds of overriding him, it’s likely to be the courts rather than Congress that derails the emergency declaration. And even though the president could face a sizable GOP revolt, he appears comfortable pitting himself against Senate Democrats and a bloc of his own party.

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GOP concerns on the emergency generally stem not from opposition to the wall itself, but toward the precedent he may set for future Democratic presidents to declare a national emergency and shift billions around for their more liberal policy priorities.

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The White House knows eight to 12 senators have raised concerns about the national emergency declaration – either the legal and constitutional ramifications, or the potential from diverting money from military construction funds to build the border wall. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Senior administration aides and Trump allies have long expected that some Republicans will balk at supporting the emergency declaration and say what’s key is that Trump is seen as fighting ahead of the 2020 campaign. “The president just needs to show he is trying and that he is checking all of those boxes,” said one Republican close to the administration. “You can’t say he didn’t try from a re-election standpoint.”

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Vice President Mike Pence made the administration’s case last week, answering questions from several of the president’s internal critics on the emergency issue at a party lunch, though he is not planning on attending Tuesday’s lunch because he is traveling.

Fresh off his trip to the Middle East, Jared Kushner, one of the other key negotiators with Congress, is focused on finalizing his peace proposal for that region. Although Kushner was spotted on Capitol Hill on Monday, it was not to discuss the national emergency declaration with any senators, said one White House aide.

“They’re very much pushing it, or they wouldn’t be up here talking to the caucus. So, I wouldn’t say the president isn’t interested in converting people to his point of view,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is leaning against voting for the disapproval resolution.

Grassley said he was going to join an effort by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other conservative senators who want to change the law governing national emergency declarations, which some hope to attach to the simple disapproval resolution passed by the House. That change would set a 30-day clock on all emergency declarations, and require a majority vote from Congress to continue the emergency rather than forcing Congress to muster veto-proof majorities to disapprove of them. Senators said it was still unclear whether the resolution of disapproval can be amended.

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