Congress

2020 hopefuls ditch Senate vote to end border emergency in favor of trail

The Senate voted to end the southern border emergency declaration but without sufficient votes to override a presidential veto

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., walks through the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2019. Harris, and several 2020 White House hopefuls, did not vote Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate voted Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border but without sufficient votes to override an all-but-inevitable presidential veto.

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction.

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Republicans cast all 41 no votes on the resolution.

Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who voted in favor of ending the emergency declaration in March, did not vote Wednesday. Neither did Democratic presidential hopefuls Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., described the reprogramming of Pentagon funds to build a border wall as “theft.”

“We are being asked to give our constitutional blessing to President [Donald] Trump contorting the law beyond recognition,” Leahy said, “contorting the law to undo congressional funding decisions by fiat. I will not stand for that.”

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The White House promised Wednesday to veto the measure. Trump has made constructing 500 miles of a border wall a priority ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Both chambers previously voted to end the Feb. 15 emergency declaration, but without sufficient majorities to override Trump’s veto, which immediately followed the Senate’s passage in March. By law, Congress has the ability to reconsider ending national emergencies every six months, which enabled Wednesday’s vote.

In remarks on the floor before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of offering a false choice between paying for border security and for military construction projects when Congress has the ability to fund both.

“Now, still unwilling to work with the president and Republicans on a long-term bipartisan solution for border security, Senate Democrats are making us repeat the same show vote again,” McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., maintained the issue was Congress’ power of the purse. By using an emergency declaration to divert military construction funds, the administration was usurping Congress’ constitutional authority, and taking money from vital military construction projects in multiple states to pay for a border wall, a project Congress had rejected, Schumer said.

“We know what an emergency is: soldiers at risk, the risk of war. Of course the president should have flexibility then, but not on a political decision where there’s great dispute in the Congress and in the country and when the president lost in the legislative battle that ensued,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a list of 127 projects that would be delayed by the diversion of funds for border wall construction.

According to a CQ Roll Call analysis, projects in 16 districts with Democrat representatives lost $685.4 million, while projects in 20 GOP-controlled districts lost $349.6 million. Eight states with two Democrat senators lost $580.2 million, while 11 states with two GOP senators lost $444.6 million. Four states with one senator from each party lost $51.2 million.

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