Congress handed President Donald Trump a pair of stinging defeats Thursday, with Sen. Rob Portman joining a majority of senators to reject the president’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall on the Mexican border and the House urging public release of the final report expected to be filed this spring by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Portman, R-Ohio, joined 11 fellow Republicans on a measure to kill Trump’s plan to declare a national emergency so he can find the money to build a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, also voted to reject the emergency.
Portman’s vote — which he had not announced before Thursday afternoon — came hours after the House voted 420–0 on a non–binding resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to make public Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion during the 2016 campaign between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s campaign.
The Senate’s 59–41 vote on the emergency will likely provoke the first veto of Trump’s presidency. In fact, he tapped out a one word tweet after the Senate vote: “VETO!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
A few minutes later Trump added: “I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!”
I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
The House backed its version of the proposal in late February, with Ohio Democrats unanimously supporting the measure and Ohio Republicans in unanimous opposition.
But even though Trump’s veto likely will be sustained, the votes Thursday were the first major rebukes of the president by Republicans since he took office in January of 2017.
Alex Conant, a Republican consultant in Washington, said the Senate vote “is more concerning for the White House in part because it will force a veto. It also shows there are an increasing number of Republican senators who are seeking small ways to distance themselves from Trump.”
Portman said while a wall is necessary and the border crisis is a humanitarian crisis, he could not back what he called an “unprecedented” use of presidential power.
Instead, he suggested Trump use a different pot of money that would not require taking money from military construction projects, as the Trump emergency declaration would do.
“I believe that the president’s use of the national emergency declaration to access already approved military construction project funding in this case is wrong,” Portman said.
He added that Trump’s emergency declaration “opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want and take funding from other areas Congress has decided on without Congress’s approval.”
“Each one of us in this body has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
Portman had suggested alternative solutions to pay for the wall, such as using money designated to fight drugs or organized crime in addition to the $1.4 billion Congress approved for the wall earlier this year.
In mid–February, Trump announced he’d use $3.6 billion in military construction dollars in addition to other money appropriated by Congress last year to pay for the wall. Among the allocations potentially affected: $61 million to replace a World War II–era National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
Portman’s vote to terminate the emergency came hours after every House Republican and Democrat from Ohio called for release of the Mueller report in a nearly unanimous vote; four GOP lawmakers voted “present.”
Rep. Troy Balderson, R–Zanesville, called the Mueller resolution “a no-brainer: make the Mueller report public so Americans can get answers and move forward.”
Mueller, the former director of the FBI, has to file a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr into whether there was collusion during the 2016 campaign between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s campaign to damage the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said he looks “forward to reviewing” Mueller’s report, adding “Congress and the public have the right to see the report; today’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote reaffirms that, and moves us one step closer to putting these questions to rest.”
When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked senators to bring the Mueller resolution to the Senate floor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. objected.
Graham said he would withdraw his objection if Schumer permitted floor vote on a resolution urging a special counsel be named to investigate the FBI’s inquiry in 2016 into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
© 2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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