For the second time this year, the U.S. Senate has approved a resolution terminating the national emergency President Donald Trump declared in February in order to start building a border wall without Congressional authorization. Eleven Republicans joined all Democrats present in the September 25 vote (roll call). The rest of the GOP caucus, including Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, voted against it.
The National Emergencies Act allows members of Congress to introduce a disapproval vote every six months following a declaration of a national emergency. Unlike most legislation backed by Democrats, Senate GOP leaders are unable to keep this kind of resolution from getting a floor vote. Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced the new resolution earlier this month, after Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed off on a list of military construction projects that will be deferred for Trump’s vanity project.
The Congressional votes will not stop construction of a border wall, because there are not enough GOP defectors to override Trump’s veto.
The president ordered that $3.6 billion in military construction funding be diverted for a wall along the southern border. The memo from Esper (enclosed below) calls for about half of that money to come from projects planned in foreign countries. The rest was supposed to be used within the U.S. or U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. None of the diverted funds had been designated for facilities in Iowa.
Of the Senate Republicans facing tough re-election bids in 2020, only Susan Collins of Maine voted to overturn Trump’s executive overreach. Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina put loyalty to Trump first, like Ernst. Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina will all have construction projects deferred under Esper’s memorandum.
At this writing, neither Ernst nor Grassley has released a statement on today’s vote. When a similar resolution came before the Senate in March, Ernst said, “Under the National Emergencies Act, the president has the authority to make this decision, and while I’ve consistently stated this is not the approach I would have preferred, I do recognize the need to secure our border.”
UPDATE: Neither senator commented on this vote in a news release. In contrast, U.S. Representative Steve King (IA-04) highlighted his vote against the resolution in a September 27 statement from his office.
The House approved the resolution on September 26 by 229 votes to 186, with Iowa’s four members splitting along party lines.