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Senate passes bill again to end Trump’s southern border emergency declaration

United States Senate chamber. (United States Congress/Released)
September 25, 2019

The Senate voted again on Wednesday to end President Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern U.S. border.

In a 54-41 vote, the Senate agreed to terminate the declaration via Senate Joint Resolution 54, garnering five fewer votes than their previous attempt in February.

This time, 11 Republican senators voted for the resolution: Sens. Lamar Alexander, Roy Blunt, Susan Collins, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, and Roger Wicker.

“The vote today is the surest and likely the only way to restore funding the president has stolen from our troops and military projects across the country,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said before the vote, as The Hill reported.

Although the efforts failed before and aren’t likely to be successful this time around, Congress can hold a vote every six months to end the declaration, due to the language of the National Emergencies Act.

“Still unwilling to work with the president and Republicans on a long-term bipartisan solution for border security, Senate Democrats are making us repeat the same show vote again. I would urge my colleagues to vote for border security and vote against Democrats’ resolution,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.

Using the powers granted by the National Emergencies Act, Trump had issued a national emergency declaration on Feb. 15 to declare the southern border crisis a national emergency. In doing so, he permitted the emergency reallocation of federal funds to address the crisis.

He then ordered the Pentagon to draw some $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction funds, and pull some $2.5 billion from military counternarcotics programs, as well as $600 million from an asset forfeiture program in the Treasury Department.

The Senate previously passed the measure in February in a 59-41 vote, along with the House of Representatives’ resolution with a vote of 245-182 to end the emergency declaration.

As expected, the measure was vetoed by Trump, and failed again in March when the House voted 248-181 to override Trump’s veto.

When the emergency declaration could not be stopped before, Congress and federal courts then sought to block the reallocation of funds from federal budgets to the border wall.

In a lawsuit, Democrats argued that reallocating funds in this way was a violation of the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution – the clause that grants Congress the power to designate federal spending.

They argued that Trump had “flouted the fundamental separation-of-powers principles and usurped for itself legislative power specifically vested by the Constitution in Congress.”

In May, a trial court had decided in May to halt the Administration from using the funds.

In July, the Supreme Court decided the Trump Administration could redirect $2.5 billion Pentagon funds for the border wall construction, ruling in a 5-4 vote to remove the injunction placed by a lower court, thus allowing the Trump Administration to proceed with using some of the Pentagon funds previously reallocated for the construction of the border wall.