Government & Politics

GOP Sens. Blunt, Moran vote to block Trump’s use of emergency powers to build wall

Republican Sens. Roy Blunt and Jerry Moran issued a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump Thursday, joining ten other GOP lawmakers to side with Democrats and vote to block him from using emergency powers to construct a wall along the southern border.

Both Kansas City-area senators had been tight-lipped about how they would vote on the Democratic-crafted disapproval resolution. The measure’s 59-41 passage will force Trump to exercise his veto power for the first time since taking office and set up a potential override fight.

Blunt, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, had sought to provide Trump with alternatives prior to his controversial decision to invoke his powers under the National Emergencies Act. That move followed Congress’ refusal to appropriate the president’s desired level of funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Missouri Republican’s decision to back the resolution puts him at odds with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

Blunt, the only member of GOP leadership to support the resolution, said in a statement after the vote that he shares the president’s commitment to building physical barriers on the border and reiterated his belief that Trump has other ways he can shift more dollars toward border security.

He pointed to the dangerous precedent that would be set by allowing Trump to move forward with his declaration.

“This issue will be settled in the courts. That could take months and result in future Presidents having emergency authority to use in other ways. Democrats have already made clear that they believe they could use this same authority to impose policies like gun control or the Green New Deal,” Blunt said.

“Those decisions should not be made without congressional action. I was aggressively opposed to the Obama administration’s attempts to circumvent Congress’s appropriating authority to prop up Obamacare. The same principle should apply regardless of which party occupies the White House.”

Moran posted a handwritten explanation of his vote to social media a few hours before the Senate passed the resolution, setting up Trump’s first veto fight as president.

“I aggressively opposed the overreach of the past presidents and believe that I cannot pick and choose to now look the other way,” said Moran, a Kansas Republican.

“If the constitution means one thing in the Obama administration and another in the Trump administration, the enduring value of the constitution disappears and other generation of Americans will be less free.

“In high school government class we all learned about our Founding Fathers and the three separate, but equal branches of government,” Moran wrote. “This concept is one of the most significant in protecting America as a republic and maintaining citizen freedoms and liberties.”

Moran called the emergency declaration unnecessary, noting that Trump can use the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated last month for additional border security.

“The declaration of emergency under these circumstances is a violation of the U.S. Constitution,” he said. He warned that Trump’s declaration would push country closer to having an all powerful executive, “something those who wrote the Constitution were fearful of.”

This isn’t the first time that the Kansas Republican has bucked a Republican president. In 2003, he was one of a few House Republican who defied then-Speaker Dennis Hastert and then-Whip Blunt to vote against the GOP’s Medicare prescription drug benefit, a legislative priority for President George W. Bush.

Moran also made headlines in July 2017 when he announced opposition to the Senate Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare.

At the time, he criticized the “closed door process” that produced GOP’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and said it “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”

He eventually would join a majority of GOP senators in voting to proceed with legislation, but the push to repeal the healthcare law ultimately failed.

Moran earlier this year voted against the Trump administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Russian companies and on Wednesday he defied Trump by voting to end U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

But for the most part, both lawmakers are in line with the White House. Moran has voted with Trump 90.2 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s vote tracker. Blunt is in 95.7 percent agreement.

Both senators had initially backed a proposal from Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, that would have allowed Trump to move forward with his declaration but required presidents to obtain congressional approval for future declaration.

The other two GOP senators from the Kansas City region, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, opposed the resolution.

“I’m with the president on this one,” Hawley said in a video posted to Twitter last week. “I think he’s got the authority to do it. I think unquestionably there is a crisis at the border.”

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Lindsay Wise is an investigative reporter for McClatchy’s Washington Bureau. Previously, Lindsay worked for six years as the Washington correspondent for McClatchy’s Kansas City Star. Before joining McClatchy in 2012, she worked as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where she specialized in coverage of veterans and military issues as well as the city’s Arab and Muslim communities.
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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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