Sen. Charles Schumer forced a vote in the Senate last week that he knew would fail before the roll was ever called. It did, and rightly so. So much for the self-styled “world’s greatest deliberatively body.”
The Sept. 25 vote was on a resolution whose only real purposes were to embarrass President Trump and to create what Democrats hope they can turn into a campaign issue against Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2020. It was the second vote on the issue, and it failed just as badly as it did in March when, Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat and Senate minority leader, tried it before, and the president vetoed it. Last week’s resolution, S.J. Res. 54, was aimed at overturning Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration of Feb. 15 to reallocate $3.6 billion in Pentagon spending to pay for his “big, beautiful” border wall.
The president acted only after an irresponsible Congress approved only about one-third of that amount ($1.375 billion) for the much-needed border barrier, which would pay for itself many times over in terms of the costs of illegal immigration that it will prevent. The $3.6 billion in reallocated funds would have gone to 127 Pentagon construction projects in 23 states, as well as in three territories and 19 foreign countries. The White House said the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border authorized him to redirect the funds. If the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants pouring across the southern border — or trying to — every year from Mexico don’t qualify as a national emergency (and a national security threat), it’s hard to conceive of what would.
The canceled projects included a new child care center for Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs of Washington; a new middle school for the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Army base; a shooting range at a base in Jackson, Mississippi; and new fire station for Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Many of them are worthy projects (some more than others), but hardly as imperative as funding the securing of the nation’s borders. Yet, of the 43 Senate Democrats present for the vote, not so much as a single one — not even the quasi-centrist Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, which Mr. Trump won with a whopping 68.5 percent of the 2016 vote — sided with the president.
Supporters of the resolution of disapproval piously cited concern for Congress’ power of the purse and for “checks and balances.” Responding to Mr. Schumer’s crocodile tears about “the president [taking] money from our military to build a border wall,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called his bluff. The Kentucky Republican said if the Democrats are genuinely concerned about funding for the Pentagon construction projects, Congress could simply appropriate new funds to replace the $3.6 billion — a move they summarily rejected. If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made, as they say in Hollywood, and Washington politics is show business for ugly people.
The resolution garnered a Senate majority, 54-41, but it fell far short of the 67 votes needed to overturn the presidential veto that it will surely — and deservedly — draw. Shame on the 11 Senate Republicans who provided cover smoke for Democrats to pass the disapproval resolution on a nominally “bipartisan” basis: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Of the five senators who missed the vote, four of them are running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and presumably were on the campaign trail: Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent. But even if they had been present and voted to disapprove of the emergency declaration, the resolution still would have fallen far short of the requisite 67.
Eleven House Republicans also joined lockstep Democrats two days later on Sept. 27, when the Democrat-controlled lower chamber voted 236-174, also knowing full well they would fall far short of the 290 votes needed to override a veto. As though to underscore that the votes were pointless other than to demonstrate that it was for purely partisan political purposes, no Senate minds (or votes) had changed since the resolution was first voted on back in March. But that’s unlikely to stop the issue from coming back before Congress again, however, because Democrats can force a vote on the issue every six months. By then, in March, the 2020 election season will be in full swing, and the opportunity to demagogue the issue will surely prove impossible for Democrats to resist.