U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and 11 other Republicans broke from a majority of their party to vote alongside Democrats on a resolution to bring an end to Trump’s national emergency declaration that allowed him to siphon money away from other projects to his border wall.
The vote marks another break between Alaska’s two senators as U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan stuck with 40 other Republicans to defend the president’s actions. Murkowski signaled her intention to vote for House Resolution 46 last week.
In a prepared statement, Murkowski focused her concern on the issues as a matter of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. She said his emergency declaration was solely intended to circumvent Congress—an argument that’s already working its way through the courts in lawsuits brought by multiple states.
“I take very seriously my oath to uphold the Constitution, and my respect for the balance within the separation of powers. Article 1 provides that the power to appropriate lies with the legislative branch. When the executive branch goes around the express intention of Congress on matters within its jurisdiction, we must speak up or legislative acquiescence will erode our constitutional authority,” she said. “We can and must address the President’s very legitimate concerns over border security, but we must not do it at the expense of ceding Congress’ power of the purse.”
In her floor speech, she quoted at length from an editorial published by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner entitled “A dangerous course: Congress shouldn’t cede power to president in border funding dispute.” The editorial laid out the legal argument—including a reference to Federalist No. 51—that to go along with the president’s emergency order would be to give up Congress’ authority as a check on the president’s power.
“So you translate that into just plain old English, and it basically is Congress is a coequal branch of government and as such, Congress should stand up for itself,” Murkowski said. “And that really is the reason, the root of why I have announced my support for this resolution of disapproval.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan focused instead on the underlying issues at the border as his reasoning for opposing the measure and defending Trump’s actions.
“After much reflection, I have concluded that today’s vote was primarily about the underlying emergency and, as I have consistently stated, there is no doubt that a crisis exists at the border,” he said in a prepared statement. “With the influx of drugs, crime, and human trafficking as a result of a porous southern border, I could not vote for a bill that, in effect, would block the President’s attempt—using authority authorized by Congress and previously invoked by numerous Presidents—to better secure the border and keep Americans safe.”
Critics have argued that the emergency over drugs, crime and human trafficking at the southern border are largely manufactured—and racially tinged—pointing to studies that show the U.S. is actually seeing record low rates of unauthorized immigration.
The country is, however, seeing a high rise in asylum seekers but those are people who turn themselves into border authorities in an attempt to seek legal admission to the U.S. because of economic, political or criminal problems in their home countries.
Will a wall fix that issue? Here’s what Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told NPR.
“It’s a spectacularly bad idea, a complete waste of money,” he said. “The only emergency we have on the border right now is people seeking asylum. And people seeking asylum are not trying to sneak in. They’re turning themselves in and asking for a hearing.”
Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young voted against the measure in late February, and Trump has already promised a veto of the resolution. Neither the House nor Senate has the votes to override the veto.
Still, with the legal cases still pending against the Trump’s declaration some believe today’s vote could still have a role to play in the courts. A vote against the resolution would have affirmed that Congress approved of Trump’s moves, cutting the legs out of the constitutional case about separation of power. Instead, the lawsuits can now point to Congress explicitly being against the move.