An eleventh-hour rescue mission by Republican senators to stave off an awkward defeat for President Donald Trump on his declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border, and to protect themselves from a politically dicey vote opposing him, seemed to collapse Wednesday.
The setback made it all but certain that defections from his own party will force Trump to cast what could be his first veto — on a struggle directly related to his signature issue of building barricades along the southwest border. It also left Republican senators facing a painful choice: defy a president who commands passionate loyalty from conservative voters or acquiesce to what many lawmakers from both parties consider a dubious and dangerous expansion of presidential authority.
After a closed-door lunch, GOP lawmakers predicted the Senate would approve a resolution Thursday annulling the emergency Trump has declared along the border. The Democratic-led House passed the legislation last month, meaning Senate assent would send it to Trump.
“It was called turn out the lights, the party’s over,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., recalling a favorite refrain of “Monday Night Football” announcers when a game was out of reach. “Well, that’s appropriate right now.”
Republicans hoped Trump would support a separate measure curbing a president’s powers to declare future emergencies. Had he done so, they thought, it would be easier for reluctant GOP senators to support the emergency Trump has proclaimed to steer $3.6 billion more than Congress has approved for barrier construction.
Also Wednesday, the Senate again rebuked Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers.
The 54-46 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, sets the foundation for a veto, with the House expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, possibly later this month.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, encouraged lawmakers Wednesday to oppose the Yemen resolution, calling it “inappropriate and counterproductive.” But seven Republican senators broke ranks to join the resolution.