Pence Met Privately With GOP Senators To Thwart Senate Defeat On Emergency

Vice President Mike Pence, center, accompanied by his Chief of Staff Marc Short, second from left, leaves the U.S. Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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March 12, 2019 5:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House labored Tuesday to prevent a high-profile congressional rejection of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border, or at least reduce the number of Republican senators joining Democrats to thwart him.

Vice President Mike Pence met privately at the Capitol with a handful of GOP senators, hoping to persuade them to stand by Trump in a showdown vote set for Thursday. Since the Democratic-run House voted last month to block Trump, Senate passage would send the resolution to the White House, where it would face a certain veto.

Congress would be highly unlikely to muster the two-thirds majorities needed to eventually override a veto. But the faceoff would highlight a clash in which Trump was being forced to protect one of his highest priorities — building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, his signature campaign promise — by vetoing legislation sent to him by a Republican-led Senate.

GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Todd Young of Indiana were also in discussions with the White House about related legislation that would curb the ability of future presidents to declare national emergencies. Trump declared an emergency last month to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build border barriers after Congress voted to provide him with less than $1.4 billion for barrier construction.

If Trump would agree to sign legislation handcuffing future emergency declarations, it could help the White House reduce opposition among GOP senators to his border emergency declaration in Thursday’s vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters that Republicans are “looking at ways to revisit the law” on emergency declarations, which was enacted in 1976.

He said the proposed measure would apply “prospectively,” not to Trump’s current border emergency. That vote could well occur after Congress returns from a recess later this month.

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