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House sponsor of resolution to nix emergency declaration predicts'uphill battle' with Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 23, 2019. Washington Post photo by Melina Mara

WASHINGTON - The lead sponsor of a resolution to overturn President Donald Trump's emergency declaration at the border predicted Tuesday, Feb. 26, that it would pass both the House and Senate but acknowledged supporters could lack the votes to override a threatened presidential veto.

"Look, the president is probably going to veto this bill, and it's an uphill climb to override any veto, not just this one," Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Tex., told reporters. "But we're not going to give up. We're going to keep fighting. And I'm hopeful."

His comments came ahead of a planned vote later Tuesday in the House to nullify a presidential emergency declaration for the first time since passage of the National Emergencies Act in 1976.

Democrats in the chamber are united in their effort to prevent Trump from using the declaration to divert more funding for border barriers than Congress has authorized. But GOP leaders are urging their members to oppose the resolution, aiming to keep the final tally low enough to demonstrate that Congress would be unable to overturn a veto.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., used part of an address to an American Legion conference Tuesday to decry Trump's plan to redirect funding from military construction projects to border barriers.

"This declaration steals billions of dollars from urgently needed construction projects," she said. "This is wrong. . . . We cannot let this proceed."

She also argued that Congress needs to stand up for its constitutional powers.

"Our founders had great vision. They did not want a king," she said.

The outcome on a disapproval resolution is less certain in the Senate, which will be required - under provisions of the National Emergencies Act - to take up the legislation within weeks of House passage. If all Senate Democrats vote for the disapproval resolution, only four Republican votes would be needed to ensure passage, since just a simple majority vote is required.

Castro said he is confident supporters of the resolution can meet that threshold in the Senate but stopped short of predicting the required 67 votes to override a veto in the Republican-led chamber.

So far, two Republican senators have said they will vote for the resolution while another has said she is likely to support it but has not committed to doing so.

Castro argued that Republican senators should stand up for Congress as an institution and not set a precedent for future presidents to frivolously declare emergencies.

"This is the most consequential vote we've ever taken with respect to the balance of power on the Constitution between the president and Congress," he said.

But Castro vowed the fight won't end if lawmakers fail to override a Trump veto.

"This is just one way we're challenging him," Castro said. "I said that we would challenge him in the courts, we would challenge him in Congress, and I believe the American people will challenge him, and that's what's happening."

Trump urged GOP senators to stick with him, writing on Twitter Monday: "I hope our great Republican Senators don't get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security. Without strong Borders, we don't have a Country - and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart, don't fall into the Democrats 'trap' of Open Borders and Crime!"

Democrats continued to push back Tuesday on the notion that a genuine emergency exists.

"There is no crisis at the border," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters.

"President Donald Trump has more stories than Harry Potter, and all of them are make believe," Jeffries added.

This article was written by John Wagner, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis, reporters for The Washington Post.