- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Senators voted Wednesday to rebuke President Trump and cancel his border emergency, saying he overstepped his powers in grabbing $3.6 billion Congress approved for military construction projects and instead spending it on his campaign promise to build a border wall.

The 54-41 vote is unlikely to stop the president, though. While the measure also is likely to pass the House, a veto is expected — and Wednesday’s tally showed there are more than enough Republicans ready to sustain Mr. Trump.

Democrats cast the vote as another legislative black eye for Mr. Trump, with nearly a dozen Republicans joining in the rebuke.

“This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “This is about checks and balances, not about Republicans and Democrats, and the need for the Senate to rein in an out-of-control executive.”

The vote was a do-over. Congress held a similar vote in March after Mr. Trump, furious that Congress approved only $1.375 billion in its 2019 spending bills for wall construction, declared a border emergency and said he would siphon nearly $7 billion from other accounts to use for the wall.

Both the House and Senate voted to overturn the emergency, but Mr. Trump issued a veto and it was sustained, failing to get the needed two-thirds majority in both chambers for an override. Mr. Trump began tapping some Pentagon money Congress had designated for drug interdiction.

Weeks ago the Defense Department announced it was also digging into military construction funds and would halt more than 100 projects across the globe to use that money for more border wall.

The Democrats’ campaign committee has gleefully pointed to projects that will be halted in vulnerable GOP senators’ states, hoping to build pressure on Republicans to buck the president.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican up for re-election next year, said she has backed border wall money in the past, but said she was voting to end Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration to make a statement about checks and balances.

“I cannot support the president unilaterally deciding to take money that has been appropriated for one purpose and diverting those billions of dollars for another purpose, no matter how important or worthy that goal may be,” she said.

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, supported Mr. Trump and said Democrats were creating a false choice between defense spending and border wall money.

“The only reason there’s any trade-off is that Democrats have refused to work with the president,” Mr. McConnell said.

He said Congress could easily backfill the money Mr. Trump wants to siphon from the military, so that the Pentagon can keep its projects on schedule and the president can get his wall money.

The Senate voted later Wednesday on a non-binding measure to do just that. The 52-42 vote put senators on record urging the chamber’s negotiators on the defense policy bill to seek to backfill the money.

“Even my Democratic colleagues who don’t support the administration’s border security agenda should not take out their frustration on our armed forces,” Mr. McConnell said. “Every single member of this body should be able to support the measure to fully fund military construction.”

Fat chance, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who said he expects even if Congress did backfill the money, the administration would just grab it again, siphoning it away for another round of wall-building.

“Mr. President, I believe you said Mexico was going to pay for your wall, not our troops, not their families, and not future generations of American citizens,” he said.

Most Democrats joined Mr. Leahy in opposing the move to refill the Pentagon’s coffers, saying they didn’t want to be seen voting for anything that would give Mr. Trump’s actions any stamp of approval.

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