Republicans are going down to the wire as they try to find a way out of their showdown with President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg: ‘I have more years of government experience under my belt’ than Trump Tucker Carlson says he won’t apologize for comments in resurfaced radio interview Buttigieg calls Pence ‘cheerleader for the porn star presidency’ MORE over his national emergency to build a wall on the Mexican border.
They are looking for ways that Trump could win more wall funding without using the emergency declaration, a controversial move that has caused angst on Capitol Hill.
“I think we’re universally for what the president wants to do, but there’s significant concern about using the emergency in this new way that sets a precedent likely in court that future presidents could use,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump set for tumultuous ride with Congress GOP hunts for unified strategy in emergency declaration fight GOP braces for showdown on wall emergency with Trump MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.
Without an off ramp, the resolution of disapproval has enough votes to pass the Senate, and as many as 15 Republicans could vote for it. That would be an embarrassingly high number for the White House, even if a Trump veto cannot be overridden.
Republicans have yet to find a plan that unites the caucus and passes procedural muster with the parliamentarian.
“My sense was we were kind of down to Plan Z. Started with Plan A and found that none of those worked,” Blunt said.
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP hunts for unified strategy in emergency declaration fight White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration Overnight Energy: McConnell plans Green New Deal vote before August recess | EPA official grilled over enforcement numbers | Green group challenges Trump over Utah pipelines MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said “the marketplace of ideas is percolating,” while Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTop McConnell spokesman to join Global Automakers O’Rourke teases ‘big announcement’ amid 2020 speculation GOP hunts for unified strategy in emergency declaration fight MORE (R-Texas) told CNN that there were “great ideas but no conclusions.”
The talks have ranged from amending the resolution to passing a separate stand-alone measure. Leadership staffers have been deputized to scour the chamber’s rules for help.
Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: Pentagon seeks B over five years for Space Force | Trump says Warmbier comments ‘misinterpreted’ | GOP bristles at Trump plan to pay for wall GOP bristles over plan to shift military funding to border wall Whip List: Where Republicans stand on emergency declaration vote MORE (R-Okla.), who is undecided on the vote, said the parliamentarian has given them an initial determination that the House-passed resolution could be amended.
“That is the debate right now, what the amendment should look like, if we should have one,” he said. “All the options are out there on the table.”
He added that senators are also talking about alternative side-by-side proposals. “There’s not a resolution on this for us,” he said.
The emergency declaration fight presents a multi-pronged problem for Republicans, who need to agree on alternative language that both supports Trump on border security and expresses their constitutional concerns about his actions.
Asked about making changes to the House-passed resolution, a GOP aide said that the Senate “can amend whatever it wants,” but added that the parliamentarian has said there should be limits on amendments for the resolution to keep its privileged status.
Trump has sent multiple warning shots to Republicans, urging them to “stay united.”
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell works to freeze support for Dem campaign finance effort GOP senator: Some of Trump’s ‘strongest supporters’ are ‘troubled’ by emergency declaration GOP wants Trump to back off on emergency MORE (Maine), one of the four Republican senators voting for the resolution, predicted that more of her colleagues would come out against Trump, though she declined to speculate on how many.
“I can tell you from talking with my colleagues that many are troubled, even those who are the strongest supporters of the president and his views on border security,” Collins said during an interview with CNN.
Though some GOP senators estimate that the number of Republican votes in favor of the resolution disapproving the emergency declaration could hit double digits, undecided senators have remained on the fence since Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulShuttering of NSA surveillance program emboldens privacy groups Poll: Large majority opposes emergency declaration for border wall GOP wants Trump to back off on emergency MORE (R-Ky.) offered his support more than a week ago.
Asked how he would vote, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyEx-Trump DOJ official to serve as CNN analyst, not editor, after backlash Bernie Sanders’s biggest appeal: He’s not a Democrat White House pressures Senate GOP to back Trump’s emergency declaration MORE (R-Utah) demurred, noting he didn’t yet know the text of the resolution that will be before the Senate.
“We have to see that before we can say for certain how we’re going to vote,” he said.
Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP eyes big vote against Trump GOP braces for showdown on wall emergency with Trump Rand Paul is ‘living up to conservative principles’ by opposing Trump’s emergency declaration, says GOP strategist MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, publicly urged Trump to withdraw the emergency declaration, but has not heard back from the White House about his idea.
One possible option under discussion would to get Trump roughly $5.7 billion for the wall, which Republicans support, but also block his emergency declaration. Republicans are also weighing changes to the National Emergency Act, including requiring that Congress affirmatively vote to continue the emergency declaration after a certain amount of time.
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanElectric vehicles are not the answer for Ohio’s shuttered GM plant Portman presses GM to make electric vehicles at Ohio plant scheduled to close Trump addresses fallout over Otto Warmbier comments MORE (R-Ohio) said during a conference call with Ohio reporters that he was trying to find an “alternative way” to get Trump funding, including expanding the amount of money he can take from the Pentagon’s counter-drug funds. Trump is expected to take roughly $2.5 billion from that pot though Republicans have floated expanding that to $4 billion.
Republicans argue that Trump could access nearly $6 billion in funding without needing to declare a national emergency—significantly more than lawmakers think he can use before the end of September, which marks the end of the fiscal year.
“There’s an overwhelming sense in the conference that the president needs to be able to build a barrier,” Lankford said. “It’s just a question of how those funds are used.”