WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting legislation that opposed his declaration of a national emergency to fund a wall along the southern border. The bill blocking Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration had attracted significant Republican support in Congress.
“Today I am vetoing this resolution,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it.” The president called the resolution “dangerous” and “reckless.”
The president was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William P. Barr and Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary. Mr. Barr said that the president’s emergency order was “clearly authorized under the law” and “solidly grounded in law.”
The president’s veto, which was expected, will send the legislation back to Congress, which most likely does not have enough votes for an override, meaning that Mr. Trump’s declaration will remain in effect.
The president has long insisted that there is a security and humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico, an assertion that was undercut by Mr. Trump himself when he acknowledged that he could have waited to issue his declaration.
Democrats seized on those words and cited government data that shows there has been no flood of criminal migrants coming into the country. Some Republicans shared that view.
But others said they opposed the president on the grounds that it was the duty of Congress to appropriate taxpayer dollars and that Mr. Trump had exceeded his authority. On Thursday, a dozen Republicans joined Senate Democrats in voting to overturn Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration, in a 59-to-41 vote.
“Never before has a president asked for funding, Congress has not provided it and the president then has used the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to spend the money anyway,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said after the vote on Thursday. Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, said he thought Mr. Trump’s declaration was unconstitutional.
Mr. Trump has held broad sway over congressional Republicans in his first two years in office. The vote by a dozen Republicans in the Senate siding with Democrats on an issue central to the president’s agenda was seen as a reclaiming of the role of Congress as a coequal branch of government.
He was undeterred by the Republican opposition and quickly signaled his next step when he tweeted “VETO” not long after the vote. The president said that there was nothing less than an “invasion” of the United States by migrants, and he added that so many of them had been apprehended that there was “nowhere left to hold all of the people that we’re capturing.”
Even if Congress fails to override the veto, the emergency declaration is already being challenged in court.
“Even members of President Trump’s own party are beginning to realize that he is a one-man constitutional crisis,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
“The president’s veto is as meaningless as his signature on the national emergency declaration,” he added. “Congress has rejected the president’s declaration, and now the courts will be the ultimate arbiter of its legality. We look forward to seeing him in court and to the shellacking that he will receive at the hands of an independent judiciary.”
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