North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis cast his vote against a resolution opposing President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration on Thursday, despite having previously said he would vote for the resolution and stand against the declaration.
Even without Tillis’ yes vote, enough Senate Republicans joined Democrats to pass the resolution, sending a high-profile rebuke to Trump over his signature agenda issue Thursday.
Prior to the day of the vote, GOP Senators Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Thom Tillis had said they planned to vote for the resolution.
In an apparent last-minute reversal, however, Tillis announced just ahead of the vote on Thursday that he would vote against the resolution, despite previously saying he would vote in favor in a Washington Post op-ed.
“Today, I come to the floor to say that I do not intend to vote for the resolution of disapproval,” the senator said, adding “The White House has been very gracious and I should say very patient given my initial position in working with us.”
This decision comes in contrast to a statement the Senator released on Feb. 15.
“It doesn’t matter who the President is or what party they belong to: I strongly believe in the separation of powers and curbing the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the last century, including during the Obama Administration,” Tillis said in the February statement.
He added, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t believe a national emergency declaration is the solution.”
The Senator explained that his main concerns were that the national emergency declaration would not provide enough funding, would get tied up in litigation and would create a precedent that could allow a hypothetical future left-wing president to declare a national emergency to enact a radical policy agenda.
He feared the future presidents could use the same kind of national emergency declaration to bypass congress and implement the Green New Deal, “shut down banks and take over the nation’s financial institutions” and “effectively end Second Amendment Rights.”
“Congress has allowed executive overreach to continue unabated from one administration to the next because both sides are fine with it as long as they agree with the policy goal,” Tillis said. “While I agree with President Trump’s policy goal, I don’t believe in situational principles, and it’s clear what kind of rabbit hole our country can go down when we have a Democratic President who wants more government intrusion into our economy and our lives.”
A total of 12 Republicans joined Democrats to overturn the President’s national emergency border declaration on Thursday. The vote was 59-41.
The 12 Senate Republicans who voted in support of the resolution were: Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mitt Romney of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah.
Lawmakers don’t have enough votes, however, to override a certain veto from the President, but passage of the resolution in the Senate after it passed the House last month is nevertheless an embarrassing blow to Trump delivered by his own party over the President’s top campaign pledge of a wall at the US-Mexico border.
An administration official said plans are underway for Trump to publicly veto the resolution rejecting his national emergency declaration. The official said aides are hashing out a plan for Trump to use his veto pen in front of the cameras as soon as Friday.
The setback for the President also comes on the heels of another high-profile break with his administration after the Senate voted just one day earlier to curtail US military support for a Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has created a humanitarian crisis in that country.
Senate Republicans have struggled for weeks over how to vote on the resolution to overturn the national emergency.
The vote forced many to choose between loyalty to a President unafraid to attack members of his party who defy him and an emergency declaration that conservative critics describe as executive overreach and warn could set a precedent used by Democratic presidents to declare emergencies over liberal priorities such as action on climate change.
“Declaring a national emergency to access different funds sets a dangerous new precedent,” GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio warned in remarks on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “It opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want.”
The senator went on to say, “a future President could seize industries … a future President may well say that climate change is a national emergency and use emergency authorities to implement the Green New Deal,” referencing a sweeping progressive policy proposal to tackle global warming.
Portman announced during his remarks that he would support the resolution, but made a point to say — as have many other Republicans — that he believes “President Trump is right about the crisis at the border.”
Republicans had to take a tough vote on the border declaration after House Democrats pushed for a resolution to terminate the national emergency that the President announced last month in an effort to unlock money for wall construction at the southern border.
The President declared an emergency when it became clear that Congress would not meet his demand for more than $5 billion in border wall funding. The resolution is privileged, which means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not block it from coming to the floor for a vote.
Enough Republican senators had already stated their support for the resolution ahead of Thursday’s vote to guarantee it would pass. But the President continued to publicly pressure Republicans to vote against the resolution in the hours leading up to the vote, framing the vote as a choice between supporting border security or siding with liberal Democrats on immigration.
A number of GOP senators announced ahead of the vote on Thursday that they would vote in favor of the resolution, including Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander and Pat Toomey.