Trump Vetoes After Congress Rejects Border Emergency

It was the first time that Congress had voted to block a president’s emergency declaration.

March 14, 2019

Update 3/15/19: President Trump has overruled Congress by vetoing the resolution blocking his national emergency. It is the first veto Trump has issued during his presidency. 

The Senate voted on Thursday to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, a move he chose to make after Congress refused to provide funding for a wall on the southern border. With twelve Republican senators joining Democrats in opposing his declaration, the 59-41 vote represents a strong bipartisan rebuke of the president.

The Senate’s vote on Thursday approved a resolution that passed 245-182 in the House last month. It marked the first time Congress has voted to block an emergency declaration since the National Emergencies Act was passed in 1976.

“In today’s historic vote, the Senate affirmed the balance of power in our system of government,” said Spencer Boyer, director of the Brennan Center’s Washington Office. “Senators voted to put their conscience ahead of their political affiliations and stood on the side of the Constitution.”

Trump has signaled he will respond to the Senate’s vote by issuing a veto — which could mark the first veto of his presidency. Neither chamber of Congress is believed to have the two-thirds majority required to override the veto.

Regardless of the outcome, Trump’s emergency declaration has provoked conversation about the need to reform the National Emergencies Act. In a hearing before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee last month, the Brennan Center’s Elizabeth Goitein urged members of Congress to pass “common-sense reforms” to prevent presidential emergency powers from being abused. Last December, Goitein wrote a seminal piece examining the legal framework for national emergencies in The Atlantic magazine.

“Reforming the National Emergencies Act should become a bipartisan effort in the Senate, just as it already is in the House,” said Goitein. “The next time Trump abuses emergency powers, Congress shouldn’t need a veto-proof majority to stop him.”

(Image: Alex Wong)