Vulnerable Senate Republicans are standing with President Donald Trump and his efforts to build the wall. And it may cost them.
Last week, the Trump administration unveiled its plan to divert $3.6 billion in military construction funding to build the president’s border wall, a move which came after Trump declared a national emergency in February to access the funds. Among the states with projects the administration plans to raid are Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina — all of which have senators up for re-election in 2020.
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But Democrats are seeking to pressure Republicans to go on the record with their support for Trump’s national emergency by forcing another vote disapproving of it in the next month. Under federal law, Democrats can bring up the disapproval vote every six months.
Republicans insist that the money will be replenished later on and reiterated their support for the border wall, and as of now, it doesn’t appear that anyone will change their vote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is up for reelection in 2020 and whose state will see military money diverted for the wall, said he’s confident that the money for those projects will be restocked.
“I’m willing to divert funding for the wall since we couldn’t get a legislative outcome we can deal with these projects later in the next budget cycle,” Graham said. “But I’m willing to divert the funding and absorb some pain to get the wall moving forward.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also said this week that the two projects in his state affected by Trump’s military construction diversion would still get funding on time, adding that he will vote against the resolution of disapproval. Earlier this year, Tillis published an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that he would vote against the emergency declaration but later reversed his stance and voted to back Trump after coming under pressure from within his party.
Tillis said when he wrote the op-ed that he “had less concerns with what we were doing here and more concerns with the precedent we would set for future precedents and I still stand by that.” He added that he still wants to work with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on making changes to the law governing national emergencies, even though he continues to support the current one. Lee last week criticized Trump’s decision to divert military money to build the wall.
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) also plans to vote again for the national emergency. Others say the onus is on Democrats, arguing that the minority has insufficiently supported funding for border security measures.
“We wouldn’t be in this position if Democrats would just vote for border security funds but since they won’t do it then the president is exercising these extraordinary powers,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Cornyn downplayed concerns about military construction projects in his home state, saying that passing the funding to replenish them down the road would amount to a drop in the bucket for total defense appropriations.
“We all have parochial concerns about our states but border security is part of national security so my constituents want to make sure we do our job,” Cornyn said. “And if the Democrats won’t cooperate then we’re going to have to do the best we can without them.”
Democrats plan to attack Republicans politically for supporting Trump’s wall over projects in their home states. Democratic challengers bashed Republicans last week when the list of military projects affected was announced. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, referenced a Denver Post editorial criticizing Sen. Cory Gardner for failing to speak out against Colorado funds being diverted.
“I think from my perspective, at the end of the day we should all be fighting for our states on issues that matter and no matter what the president is doing if it’s going to harm our communities then we should be standing up against it,” Cortez Masto said. “At least from what I’ve seen from the Denver Post it’s having an impact, absolutely.”
When asked Wednesday if he’d support the national emergency declaration, Gardner responded: “I haven’t seen the resolution of disapproval, but I mean, the Democrats refuse to fund the border.”
In March, the majority of Republicans voted against a resolution disapproving of Trump’s national emergency declaration. Twelve Republicans broke with Trump, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is also up for re-election.
Republicans insist they aren’t concerned about the political implications of continuing to support the border emergency.
“Senate Democrats have shirked all responsibility when it comes to dealing with the crisis at the border and have failed to join Republicans in providing the necessary funds to protect our country,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.