Senate votes again to block Trump's national emergency over the border but fails to get veto-proof majority

Key Points
  • The Senate votes again to block President Trump's national emergency declaration over the southern border.
  • Trump is using the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to his proposed border wall.
  • Eleven Republicans voted with Democrats to terminate the declaration, down from 12 in March.
President Donald Trump speaks during his visit to a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Otay Mesa, California, September 18, 2019.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

The Senate voted Wednesday to block President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration over the southern border for the second time.

Still, the Republican-held chamber fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome the president's likely veto of the measure. The Senate voted 54-41 to terminate the emergency, as 11 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the resolution. Earlier this year, 12 GOP senators voted with Democrats. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., supported the measure in March but did not vote Wednesday.

Democrats forced the latest vote in part to put pressure on GOP senators who backed Trump's declaration earlier this year. The Pentagon this month outlined the military construction projects from which it would divert $3.6 billion to building border barriers.

Trump declared an emergency in February in order to allocate money for his proposed border wall after he failed to get his desired funds from Congress, which has the power of the purse. He also could not get the Mexican government to pay for the project, despite his repeated promises to do so during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Lawmakers voted to terminate the emergency in March but did not have enough support to override the president's veto. By law, Congress can try to block the declaration every six months.

The Trump administration will pull its biggest pieces of funding from two U.S. territories: $403 million and $257 million from Puerto Rico and Guam, respectively. But it will still pull significant sums from states represented by GOP senators vulnerable in the 2020 elections.

They include Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. All three opposed the resolution to end the emergency declaration during Wednesday's vote and in March.

The administration will pull $30 million from Fort Huachuca in Arizona. It will also draw $8 million from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and $80 million from three sites in North Carolina (though $32 million of that total was previously canceled).

In a statement Wednesday, Tillis said he "once again supported President Trump's emergency declaration because Democrats refuse to provide the President with the tools and resources he needs to address the crisis at the southern border and keep America safe." 

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Tillis and McSally face Republican primary election challengers.

Spokespeople for Gardner and McSally did not immediately respond to requests to comment on their votes.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to put pressure on Republicans to block the national emergency earlier in the day. He said "a vote for the president today is a vote in favor of cutting funding for our military and slashing support for critical military projects in red states as well as blue." He also argued Trump overstepped his constitutional powers by declaring the emergency.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, called Wednesday's measure a "show vote." He accused Democrats of wanting to "invent a false choice between border security and other important military construction projects."

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