Yesterday the House of Representatives failed to override
President Trump’s first veto. Last month, the president vetoed the resolution
halting his use of a national emergency to reallocate funds from other programs
to construction of the wall.
The House attempt had the support of a majority of congressmen but fell
38 votes short of the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution to
override a veto. In all, 248 congressmen, including 14 Republicans, voted to
override the veto. The move was opposed by 181 Republicans and no Democrats.
The Republicans who voted to rein in the president’s emergency
declaration were Justin Amash (Mich.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Penn.), Mike
Gallagher (Wisc.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Calif.), William Hurd (Texas), David
Johnson (S.D.), John Katko (N.Y.), Thomas Massie (W.V.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers
(Wash.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisc.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.),
Fred Upton (Mich.), and Greg Waldon (Ore.). Two other Republicans, Kay Granger
(Texas) and Joe Wilson (S.C.), joined Democrat Jackie Speier (Calif.) in not voting on the bill.
The override attempt picked
up six votes over the original House bill passed in February. Thirteen
House Republicans supported that bill while 12
Senate Republicans voted against the national emergency.
The override attempt occurred on the same day that the
Senate Republicans staged a show vote on Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s proposed
Green New Deal. In the upper chamber, Democrats refused to stand for the
unpopular measure, which was defeated 57-0 with 43 Democrats voting “present.”
In a day of show votes, it is likely that the Republicans
got the worst end of the deal. While Democrats eluded Mitch McConnell’s attempt
to put them on record defending the Green New Deal, House Republicans walked
into a trap set by Nancy Pelosi.
The override attempt was doomed to fail, but the short-term
victory has put Republicans in a tight spot. Even though Republican voters
solidly support Trump’s proposed wall, the nation at large is split on the
issue. Polling from February found that about a third supported the wall while another third
called it “totally unnecessary.” The remaining third supported border security
but said that there were “better options” than the proposed wall. Despite, or perhaps
because of, President Trump’s hard line on immigration, the number of Americans
who want increased immigration has increased
by nine points since 2016.
If support for the wall is closely divided, support for the
national emergency is not. Polling has consistently shown that Americans oppose the use of the national emergency by
double-digit margins with opposition to the wall reaching 60
percent or higher at times.
Consult pointed out the difficulty for Republicans earlier this month.
Seventy percent of Republican voters are more likely to back a congressman who
supports the president on the national emergency, but 60 percent of other voters
say that upholding the national emergency declaration makes them less likely to
vote for a candidate. A large majority, 78 percent, said the issue will be a factor
in their vote.
President Trump’s emergency declaration placed congressional
Republicans into a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situation. Supporting
the president looks good to primary voters, but could cause trouble in the
general election. The 14 Republicans who crossed the aisle have the opposite
situation. Both groups are in trouble with one group of voters or the other.
Unlike the Senate vote on the Green New Deal, the vote to
uphold President Trump’s veto and protect his expansion of presidential power at
congressional expense is likely to be remembered when voters go to the polls
next year. Republican incumbents who protected the president may fare well in
primaries, but their failure to hold the president accountable may cost the party
dearly in November.