The House has put a roadblock in President Donald Trump's planned national emergency declaration, which he intended to use to secure funds for his wall at the US-Mexico border.
The resolution put forward by the Democrats in the House of Representatives succeeded in a 245-182 vote with 13 House Republicans voting against Trump and in favour of it.
The resolution will now be voted on in the Senate, which is still controlled by the Republicans. Three Senate Republicans (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis) have already signalled their support for the resolution.
Trump is still likely to be able to use his presidential veto to override the resolution but having the resolution pass through Congress would be an embarrassing setback for him.
Breaking News: The House passed a resolution to end President Trump’s national emergency on the border. A handful of Republicans backed the measure. https://t.co/ZrtRjHt3Xz
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 26, 2019
Democrats argue there is no emergency at the Mexico border
Before the vote, Democrat Joaquin Castro, who sponsored the resolution, said: “There is no emergency at the border”. He added that border crossings from Mexico were the lowest they had been in four decades.
Trump had intended to declare a national emergency to secure the federal funds he is seeking to fulfill an election promise to construct a wall at the US-Mexico border. The stalemate on the money for the wall had previously sparked a partial government shutdown.
A statement from the White House said the President was justified in declaring the national emergency and invoking statutory authorities. Trump has authorised the Department of Defense to order the Ready Reserve for active duty and the Secretary of Defense to direct military construction in relation to the border.
The statement goes on to argue there is ample precedent for such a declaration, with Presidents having declared “nearly 60” national emergencies since the National Emergencies Act became law in 1976.
When Trump was sworn in, there were 31 national emergencies, the statement says. It also gives examples of previously declared national emergencies such as President Obama’s declaration to combat transnational criminal organisations, including cartels operating in Mexico. Obama had also declared national emergencies to address situations outside the US, including in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan and Burundi, among others.
In an emergency House vote this evening, thirteen Republicans broke with Donald Trump and voted to terminate his declaration of a national emergency: https://t.co/o1jaBPorgI pic.twitter.com/TfQbNiYNMh
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) February 27, 2019
Opponents say the declaration of a national emergency is unconstitutional
While the resolution is unlikely to actually stop the emergency declaration, it will bolster the looming series of lawsuits arguing that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency is an unconstitutional attempt to bypass Congress.
“Is your oath of office to Donald Trump or is it to the Constitution of the United States?” Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her Republican colleagues in a speech on the floor ahead of the vote. “You cannot let him undermine your pledge to the Constitution.”
Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also appealed to Republicans to prevent what he argued was an unconstitutional abuse of power.
“Fidelity to the president, or fidelity to the constitution. That is the choice we make today,” he said. “That is why this is a pivotal moment.”