Lindsey Graham: Any Republican who votes to block Trump's emergency decree is risking a GOP civil war

Maybe, and just hear me out on this, it’s Trump who should be blamed for sparking a party civil war if he insists on using an emergency declaration as some sort of constitutional trump card against Congress.


Graham’s overstating the fallout here within the GOP from an emergency decree but he’s right that it’ll create tension between Trump and the Senate. Read this if you missed it yesterday to see why.

He went on:

“To every Republican, if you don’t stand behind this president, we’re not going to stand behind you, when it comes to the wall,” Graham said in a speech in Greenville, South Carolina, of the political fight with Democrats over a border barrier. “This is the defining moment of his presidency. It’s not just about a wall, it’s about him being treated different than every other president.”…

“This is about more than a barrier. This is about us as a party,” he said…

Graham said he understands some of his Republican colleagues have concerns about what precedent it would set, but that’s “no excuse not to have this president’s back now, because we’re not doing anything exotic here.”

For fark’s sake, at least defend the emergency decree on its alleged legal merits. Graham’s on the doorstep of conceding that it may be illegal and corrosive to separation of powers but that’s no reason to oppose it because other presidents have gotten away with unconstitutional power grabs too. Pretend to care about your own branch’s prerogatives the way Republicans did from 2009 to 2017. He’s basically acting as Senate whip here for the White House, telling his colleagues that whatever the merits of the underlying legislation, they’d better vote with the party or prepare for consequences — maybe including primary challenges and/or Trump withholding support for opponents’ reelection bids. That’s what “we’re not going to stand behind you” is meant to imply, right?


If I were John Cornyn or Cory Gardner or Susan Collins or any of the other Republicans up in 2020 who are disinclined to support an emergency declaration, I’d call his bluff. If Trump wants to sabotage his own Senate majority next year by running ops against incumbents who are already facing hard runs in purplish states, let him.

But as I say, there won’t be a GOP civil war. If Trump declares an emergency, House Democrats are going to pass a joint resolution disapproving of the measure and seeking to rescind it. That will essentially force a vote in the Senate. (Unlike with most legislation, there’s little McConnell can do procedurally in this case to block a vote on Pelosi’s bill.) And under the rules for joint resolutions, all it’ll take is a simple majority for the bill to pass. Presumably there are four Republicans somewhere in the caucus who will cross the aisle and join Schumer on this, as public support for building the wall remains weak and public support for declaring a national emergency to make it happen remains very weak. The joint resolution will pass the Senate with bipartisan support, a major embarrassment for Trump.

But not a defeat. He’ll veto the resolution and go right back to trying to build the wall with Pentagon money. Then Pelosi will try to override his veto with a two-thirds vote of the House. To do that she’ll need dozens and dozens of Republicans — 55 if all Democrats are present and voting with her. It’s hard to believe she’d find that many, as House Republicans have more to fear back home in small red districts from crossing Trump than Senate Republicans do in statewide races. But even if she gets 55, there’s no way Schumer would get 20 Republicans in the Senate to cross the aisle. A two-thirds majority in both chambers to override Trump’s veto and actually block the wall’s construction really would be “GOP civil war” material but it ain’t happening. The realistic worst-case scenario, the fact pattern that Graham seems so pugnacious about here, is merely the embarrassment to POTUS of having a joint resolution pass with bipartisan support. That’ll annoy him and his supporters but at the end of the day it means nothing on the ground. Trump can even use it on the stump in 2020 to rally his fans. “Do you believe that members of our own party tried to stop me?” he’ll say, being careful not to name names and imperil any Republican reelection bids. “That’s okay, though. Just proves that there’s a lot of swamp left to be drained on both sides, which is why I need a second term.”


If it’s right-on-right fireworks you want to see, wait instead for Neil Gorsuch to vote with the Court’s liberals in blocking Trump’s emergency decree. The missiles will be flying.

By the way, is there … a slim chance that Congress really will reach a deal on border security? Never say never, notes reporter Chad Pergram:

One Democrat told Fox News yesterday that while a wall remains out of the question, “enhanced barriers” might be doable. Hmmmm.


Here’s CNN addressing the question of whether Trump might shock everyone tomorrow night by declaring a national emergency at the SOTU. Nope, not as of right now. But he changes his mind a lot, you know.

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