March 18, 2019
“Just say no.” While that slogan is most-often associated with former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, it also represents what Congressional Democrats have been articulating for the past two years to the G.O.P.
And indeed, the Republicans long have warned the president—when he stood by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; when he separated migrant children from their parents at the border; when he supported Putin in Helsinki; and when he declared a national emergency to pay for his border wall—that he should not push them too far.
And it finally has come to pass: This week, despite the best efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to keep them in line, Republicans broke ranks—delivering a series of “remarkable … bipartisan rebukes to the president,” The New York Times reported.
On March 13, with seven Republicans crossing the aisle, the Senate joined the Democrat-led House in voting to end American military aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in protest over the killing of Khashoggi.
And hours later on that same day, 12 Republican senators abandoned the president to pass legislation, already adopted by the House, that would block Mr. Trump from declaring a national emergency to build his border wall—an act of defiance that he has vowed to overturn with the first veto of his presidency. (“VETO!” the president tweeted at 3:16 p.m. on March 14.)
“We’re saying today, ‘No, we do not acquiesce to this,’” Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said after voting to block the emergency declaration, the Times reported. “We do not agree that the president should be able to come in and go against the express intention of the Congress when it comes to these appropriated funds” for his wall.
Murkowski added in a statement on her website, “”I take very seriously my oath to uphold the Constitution, and my respect for the balance within the separation of powers. Article 1 provides that the power to appropriate lies with the legislative branch. When the executive branch goes around the express intention of Congress on matters within its jurisdiction, we must speak up or legislative acquiescence will erode our constitutional authority. We can and must address the President’s very legitimate concerns over border security, but we must not do it at the expense of ceding Congress’ power of the purse.”
According to the news outlet, “The series of votes vividly demonstrated a newfound willingness to stand up to the president among some of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill. And they underscored a deep frustration in Congress about the president’s supposed scorn for a coequal branch of government.”
“We have an issue that has been litigated and adjudicated through Congress. I mean, what was more litigated than this very question? We had a government shutdown for crying out loud,” said Senator Patrick Toomey ( R-Pennsylvania) referring to funding for the border wall, which Mr. Trump is trying to secure with an emergency declaration that would circumvent Congress.
But for those who continue in lockstep with the president, the votes were merely a challenge to his authority that he would easily overcome. “He feels good,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a close ally of Mr. Trump who, the Times said, talked to the president shortly after the vote. “He said, ‘My veto will be sustained?’ I said, ‘Yeah, overwhelmingly.’ He feels like his commitment to build the wall is moving forward.”
Research contact: @nytimes