Sen. Thom Tillis (R) NC

Republican Stalwart Recognizes Trump’s Emergency Wall Declaration For What It Is: An Attack On Congress And The Constitution

But Will That Spur Other Republicans To Action?

Update: Senator Tillis, who — as we wrote about below — sparked the defiance among non-”usual suspect” Republicans, changed his mind at the last minute and voted to support Trump. Although he pledged flat out a couple of weeks ago that he would:

“Vote in favor of the resolution disapproving of the president’s national-emergency declaration, if and when it comes before the Senate.”

He didn’t. More than likely because he is up for reelection next year. And apparently decided public rejection of the President’s will is too politically risky. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported Republican operatives were indeed poised to draft primary challengers to Tillis, had he voted as he initially intended.

The House today is expected to vote on a “resolution of disapproval” for the President’s declaration of a national emergency to build his wall.

Here’s that resolution in its entirety:

In the House, the resolution has only one Republican co-sponsor, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash. Despite being quite Right-wing, he’s also reliably anti-Trump. He sums things up quite well in a Tweet:

The measure should pass easily in the Democrat-controlled House.

The Senate is another story altogether: but one where the storyline might be changing, or at least bending a little. That’s almost entirely because of North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis’ opinion piece in the Washington Post Monday. While Tillis spends a good chunk of space at the top of his piece trashing Democrats, and saying he supports the wall, he eventually comes to this:

I am a member of the Senate, and I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power. It is my responsibility…to preserve the separation of powers and to curb the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the past century. I stood by that principle during the Obama administration, and I stand by it now.”

Exactly.

Before you start totally loving him, not so fast. He goes on to say:

As a U.S. senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress. As a conservative, I cannot endorse a precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”

Tillis ends by flatly saying he will:

Vote in favor of the resolution disapproving of the president’s national-emergency declaration, if and when it comes before the Senate.

Look, we can have differences of opinion on whether the wall is crucial and necessary, or an ego-driven monument to the vainest President in U.S. history. (You can probably tell from that sentence which side of the argument we’re on.)

Where there should be no dispute is in seeing Trump’s declaration as a completely subversive move, intended to cast Congress not as an equal branch of government, but subservient to the President.

Tillis does have a reputation for willingness to work on bipartisan projects: he even co-sponsored a bill with very liberal Democrat Elizabeth Warren, to protect veterans from predatory lenders. And he perhaps most-famously co-sponsored a bipartisan bill protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which never made it to the Senate floor because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it. At the same time, Tillis has strongly supported Trump on health care, taxes, and many other issues. So he’s decidedly not one of the “usual suspects” among Republicans in the Senate who oppose, or at least question Trump’s initiatives with some frequency (and they mostly seem to be on board with the resolution, but of course we won’t know until they actually vote).

And McConnell can’t block a vote on the “resolution of disapproval”, he can only delay it for a couple of weeks.

If it passes both the House and Senate, Trump says he’ll “100% veto” it, which would then mean Congress would have to find the votes for an override, which requires a 2/3rds majority in both the House and Senate, so it’d be much more difficult of an undertaking.

For that reason, many Senators who aren’t blind to the perils created by Trump with his “non-emergency emergency” declaration, still won’t endorse the “resolution of disapproval”, because they figure “why get on the President’s bad side for nothing?” Although Trump apparently sees the possibility they might as enough of a threat that he Tweeted what could be seen as a threat at Senate Republicans, just before departing for his Vietnam meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Still other Republicans say the real issue is the fact that Congress has given the President too much leeway regarding use of emergency powers over the years, and that’s where the legislative efforts should be addressed, not on a one-off resolution. Which is just fine. Except right now, they’re using that argument to hide behind, while doing nothing, and letting the President run roughshod over the separation of powers guaranteed by the Constitution.

We can see how the President’s move might be seen as tough, even heroic, by hardcore Trump supporters. But for Republicans in Congress to see it as anything other than an affront, if not an attack is astounding. Maybe that’ll change. Doubt it.

One final thing: Republicans we know continually like to remind us these days that Presidents have declared 59 national emergencies. Their point being it’s really nothing special. Except it is. Of those 59 emergency declarations, only two involved military construction: The first President Bush during the Gulf War, and the second President Bush after 9/11. Those were both done for expediency, not because the President was upset Congress didn’t give him what he wanted. And the number of times a President declared a national emergency to take money just because Congress wouldn’t give it? Until now, zero.