Trump wins wall battle as House fails to override veto

March 26, 2019

House lawmakers Tuesday in their bid to overturn President Trump’s first veto, effectively upholding his declaration of a border emergency and leaving him with a free hand to build more of his border wall.

Democrats cast the vote as a test of patriotism, saying Congress needed to stand up to a tyrannical president overstepping his emergency powers.

But they didn’t come close to winning enough Republicans to garner the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The 248-181 vote fell far short, as GOP lawmakers brushed aside Democrats’ rhetorical challenge and said from where they stood, the border was every bit the crisis Mr. Trump said it was.

“Border security used to be a bipartisan issue,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. “The president’s declaration is only necessary because Congress can’t reach a deal to secure our country.”

Mr. Trump was flexing powers under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, which gives a president the ability to order immediate military construction in event of a crisis. That law also gave Congress the power to thwart him, if it could muster the votes.

It’s now clear that didn’t happen.

Instead, attention will turn to the courts, where a series of lawsuits have been filed to try to block Mr. Trump’s wall-building plans. It’s not yet clear what effect Congress’s vote will have on those legal cases, though some analysts said by trying and failing, lawmakers may actually have strengthened the administration’s case.

The fight is over billions of dollars Mr. Trump is trying to shift from the Pentagon’s accounts to go to wall-building along the southern border.

After battling with Congress for a year and forcing a month-long partial government shutdown, Mr. Trump won just $1.375 billion in wall money in last month’s spending bill, well short of the more than $5 billion he’d sought.

The president signed that legislation, but immediate announced he would use other money, too: $601 million in a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from a Pentagon drug interdiction account and up to $3.6 billion in military construction money.

The emergency declaration applies to the construction money.