I defer to parliamentary-procedure nerds on the nuts and bolts here. But my understanding is that because the House resolution canceling Trump’s emergency declaration is “privileged,” McConnell has no choice but to call a vote on it. Presumably Senate Republicans can pass an additional privileged resolution of their own and force Pelosi to hold a vote on that, but they can’t replace the House’s resolution with a new one in the Senate.
Although McConnell is trying. Reportedly he’s been chatting with the Senate parliamentarian to see if amending Pelosi’s resolution is allowed under the rules.
The idea, I assume, is to try to convince the four Senate Republicans who are planning to vote yes on the House resolution (Collins, Murkowski, Tillis, and Paul) to vote no by placating them with a Republican-written resolution that criticizes Trump’s emergency decree somehow but stops short of actually canceling it. There’s no substantive reason to go to all that trouble; even if Pelosi’s resolution passes the Senate, it’ll be vetoed by Trump and Congress will fall short of the numbers it needs to override that veto. The point is simply to spare POTUS the political embarrassment of having a chamber controlled by his own party support Pelosi’s measure. That’s why it’s important to know if a Senate-written resolution can replace the House resolution on the Senate floor (triggering a conference committee with the House if it passes) or if it can only be offered in addition to the House resolution. Collins et al. could simply vote yes on both in the latter case, ensuring that Pelosi’s measure lands on Trump’s desk.
“Why not do our own? I just don’t know why we’re giving ball control in the United States Senate to Nancy Pelosi, it makes no sense to me,” Johnson said.
He added that he wanted to see McConnell “engage on this, and I’m a little disappointed that he basically capitulated that we’re going to lose.”…
“We do need a vehicle to express exactly what we feel. We definitely support the president in his desire to secure the border, provide better security for this nation, build better barriers, but we’re also concerned about the whole constitutional issue,” Johnson said.
It’s no coincidence that McConnell isn’t leading the charge here. He warned Trump repeatedly before the emergency decree was issued that moderates in the Senate were likely to join Democrats in opposing it. He begged Trump not to put the caucus through a tough vote on a measure that’s opposed by upwards of two-thirds of the public. Trump didn’t listen. So McConnell’s attitude now, in all likelihood, is “Screw ‘im. Let Pelosi’s resolution pass and the president feel embarrassed. Next time maybe he’ll listen to me.” No sense in having Cocaine Mitch throw his weight around to do Trump a favor knowing that Republicans will be able to block any attempt to override the eventual veto.
One problem Senate GOPers are having in drafting their counter-resolution, according to the Hill, is not being able to agree on what it should say. Obviously it would stop short of canceling Trump’s emergency at the border, but what would it offer Democrats to try to attract votes in the House? One possibility is language that would amend the National Emergencies Act to make it harder for presidents to declare emergencies in the future. Some Republicans in the House have already floated that idea, in fact:
Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) unveiled a bipartisan resolution Wednesday that would require Congress to approve an executive declaration within 60 days of its issuance or else it would expire. Under current law, lawmakers have the option to disapprove of a president’s national emergency, but congressional approval is not required. And the president can veto a disapproval resolution…
“I do believe the president’s declaration, under existing law, is founded in fact. But I do not like the fact that the president has this authority,” Reed said. “It gives a tremendous amount of authority to the president, and we need to change the actual structure.”
“Because the next emergency may not be one that I agree with,” he said.
That’s a fine idea but a nonstarter as an alternative to Pelosi’s resolution rather than a supplement to it. Dems might support a measure that both cancels Trump’s current emergency and amends the NEA to limit emergency declarations going forward but there’s no way they’re going to let Trump slide and then vote to tie the hands of future Democratic presidents by reining in emergency powers prospectively.
I’d be interested to see what would happen, though, if both resolutions were voted on and passed in the Senate, with Collins et al. joining Schumer to cancel Trump’s decree and joining the Republican majority in passing an amendment to the National Emergencies Act. (Wouldn’t that require 60 votes, unlike a privileged resolution which requires 51?) Would Pelosi’s caucus — or any part of it — join with House Republicans to pass the Senate resolution? Remember, she’s had trouble lately keeping moderate Democrats in line. Even if liberals voted no on the Senate resolution because they want future Democratic presidents to enjoy emergency powers, moderate Dems could join with House GOPers to pass it.
But that assumes that most or all House Republicans would also support the measure, which is unlikely. Trump cronies like Matt Gaetz probably aren’t going to risk limiting Trump’s powers by amending the NEA. And Trump himself would almost certainly veto the bill, so what does it matter?
Exit question: Does anyone really care if Collins and the rest join Schumer to cancel Trump’s emergency decree considering that POTUS can block that cancellation with a veto? Yeah, it’s “embarrassing,” but all news in the Trump era holds the public’s attention for no more than a few hours. The “embarrassment” will last a day. It might even work to Trump’s advantage in providing him with a showy opportunity to demonstrate to populists that he’s standing firm on building the wall even as RINOs like Thom Tillis and Rand Paul try to stop him. If there’s any danger to Trump in having Congress pass something that blocks his emergency declaration, it’s that it’ll give judges something extra to point to as evidence that he acted without authority from the legislature, which will make it that much easier to rule against him on separation-of-powers grounds.