WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats plan to force another vote in Congress aimed at overturning President Trump's border emergency - potentially triggering another standoff between the administration and congressional Republicans over the billions in dollars being siphoned from the Pentagon to pay for Trump's border wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to announce later Tuesday, Sept. 10, that Democratic senators will force a second vote in the chamber this year on a resolution to terminate Trump's emergency border declaration, according to a senior Senate Democratic official.
The procedure to disapprove Trump's border emergency being deployed by Schumer is privileged, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be unable to block the vote from happening on the floor. In the last Senate vote to reject the emergency declaration, a dozen Republican senators defied Trump to reject his border emergency, with most decrying the president's move as a potential abuse of separation of powers.
Schumer plans to say Tuesday that "as stipulated by the National Emergencies Act, Democrats will once again force a vote to terminate the president's national emergency declaration."
"This rises to a large and vital constitutional issue: does our country truly have checks and balances, particularly important when we have such an overreaching president?" Schumer will say in a floor speech later Tuesday, according to an advance excerpt of his remarks provided to The Washington Post. "This vote will also provide a chance for Senators to prevent the president from stealing military funding from their states to foot the bill for an expensive and ineffective wall he promised Mexico would pay for."
Trump issued an emergency declaration in February after Congress denied him the $5.7 billion he demanded to construct new barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration used the declaration to unlock about $3.6 billion that had been set aside for military construction projects to pay for new and refurbished border barriers, although the emergency is being challenged in the courts.
The Pentagon last week made public a list of 127 military projects, both domestic and overseas, that would lose money toward border barrier construction. There are 11 border projects that are gaining the funds.
The list of projects include Hurricane Maria recovery projects at military installations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and projects across Europe designed to help U.S. allies fend off Russian aggression. In all, projects in 23 states, three U.S. territories and 20 countries are affected.
Democrats have also repeatedly gone on the offensive against GOP senators up for reelection who have backed Trump on his border emergency yet are losing millions in federal funding for key military projects in their home states.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. - who initially announced his opposition to Trump's emergency declaration only to reverse himself just before the vote to overturn it - stands to lose about $80 million in military projects in North Carolina. Meanwhile, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., said earlier this year that she had secured a promise from then-acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan that no military projects in Arizona would lose money for barrier construction. But $30 million for the Fort Huachuca Ground Transport Equipment Building in Sierra Vista is being diverted for the border; McSally's office said that project had already been delayed because of "unforeseen environmental issues at the construction site."
Both Tillis and McSally face potentially tough election contests next November.
Schumer can bring up the termination resolution again because under the federal emergencies law, Congress can vote to disapprove the emergency every six months. The last vote was on March 14, and Trump promptly issued a veto - the first of his presidency - of the resolution one day later. The resolution needs only a simple majority to pass in the Senate.
The Trump administration argues that in effect, the projects are merely delayed until Congress approves new money for them - but Democrats have vowed not to "backfill" the funding.
This article was written by Seung Min Kim, a reporter for The Washington Post.