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Senate Republicans Are Split On Trump's Use Of National Emergency Declaration


For more on the Republican response to President Trump's emergency declaration, we turn to NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell, who's at the Capitol. Hey there, Kelsey.


CORNISH: So we hear there Senator Graham likes what the president is doing. But just this weekend, you had Kentucky Senator Rand Paul being the fourth Republican to say he would vote with Democrats to try and block Trump. How serious is this divide?

SNELL: It's serious enough that it appears that President Trump will have to veto this resolution. It appears that the Senate will vote to tell the president that they don't want him to be using an emergency declaration to build the wall. Now, this would be his first veto, and it's something that he's talked about both publicly and on Twitter. And, you know, it's all because Rand Paul's announcement essentially guaranteed it. He basically said that he thinks that at least six other people - six other Republicans agree with him.

So he says a total of about 10 Republicans think the president is wrong on this. But he and those other Republicans are making a really, really, really narrow argument, and they're talking only about congressional and executive powers. They aren't really rejecting the concept of the wall. It's more of an argument about the way the president uses his power.

CORNISH: Talk more about this. How do they explain?

SNELL: Well, for Rand Paul, it's all about checks and balances and the fact that Congress is supposed to be the one who decides how, you know, all the government spends money. I caught up with him by the train in the Senate basement. And he said this is specifically not about agreeing with the president on policy. Here's what he said.

RAND PAUL: This isn't about pushing back on the president. This is about the Constitution, how we spend money. I mean, it's pretty explicit. The Constitution says only Congress makes laws. And if you want to draw money from the Treasury, it has to be done by a law.

SNELL: He went on to say that he thinks that Congress can't just give that power to the president. You know, and that's not to say that all Republicans are on board with building the wall either. They're just making this constitutional argument and finding other ways of being against it that are really more politically palatable. It also doesn't seem to be part of some sort of bigger movement against Trump even if they really are uncomfortable with the precedent that sets.

CORNISH: So explain the process. Where does this emergency declaration go from here?

SNELL: Well, the Senate has to vote within the next week and a half. It is part of the way that this privilege resolution, is what it's called - the way it's set up. The House already voted, so the Senate has to vote. And Senator - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that he expects it probably sometime next week. Once that happens, McConnell also says he expects that it will pass. But he said that once that happens, there's a - there's almost a definite that the president will veto it. So it could come back to the Congress then. But McConnell is essentially guaranteeing that there aren't the votes in Congress to override a veto.

Now, Republicans and Democrats alike basically say that they think that this is not over just because the Senate votes and because the veto is issued. They think this will continue on in the courts and that the courts will ultimately decide whether or not this emergency declaration will stand.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thanks for your reporting.

SNELL: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.