I say “as expected” because Pelosi’s obviously not going to say anything that might undermine her own chamber’s resolution to cancel Trump’s border emergency before the Senate has voted on it. She’s trying to apply maximum pressure on Senate Republicans to pass it by declaring Mike Lee’s alternative a non-starter if the House resolution fails.
Does she mean, though, that the House will, or might, consider Lee’s bill if the Senate does pass her House resolution?
Or does she mean that the House won’t consider the Lee’s bill, period?
Read this if you missed it last night for an analysis of the political calculations here.
In an effort to avoid voting in favor of the House's resolution to terminate Trump’s #FakeEmergency, GOP senators are proposing legislation to allow Trump to violate the Constitution *just this once.*
The House will not take up this legislation to give President Trump a pass.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) March 13, 2019
We have a potential stalemate here (don’t we always?) over Lee’s bill, which would impose time limits on emergencies declared by a president. Lee’s bill would apply only to future emergencies, though, not to Trump’s current emergency at the border. There’s good reason for that: Obviously Trump won’t sign anything into law that would end his bid to re-appropriate Pentagon money to build the wall. If you want to start reining in executive emergency power, including Trump’s power in future cases, the only option is to make an exception for the wall *just this once.*
There might be a way to thread the needle between the House, Senate, and White House so that everyone gets a little something that they want. Maybe it would work for all three parties if the House resolution passed the Senate with a bare majority and then Lee’s bill passed both chambers by any majority. Trump would then veto the House resolution and sign Lee’s bill. In that scenario, Pelosi and House Dems get the satisfaction of embarrassing Trump by having a Republican-led Senate pass their resolution canceling his border decree. Lee and other members of Congress who worry about abuse of emergency powers get the satisfaction of knowing that presidents will find it harder to abuse those powers now that his bill is law. And Trump gets the satisfaction of vetoing the House resolution, preserving his bid to build the wall with Pentagon funding.
But maybe all of that satisfaction isn’t enough. Maybe, as a condition of signing Lee’s bill, Trump will insist that the Senate block the House resolution altogether. Passage by any margin, even 51/49, will embarrass him, after all — not as much as a 60/40 margin would, granted, but why would he use his leverage over Lee’s bill to demand anything less than defeat for the House resolution in the Senate? By the same token, maybe Pelosi won’t be satisfied seeing the House resolution pass the Senate with only a tiny majority in favor. She might insist on a large majority in order to maximize Trump’s embarrassment as a condition of considering Lee’s bill. Or maybe she won’t consider Lee’s bill under any circumstances, knowing how it would hamstring future Democratic presidents who want to follow Trump’s example in abusing emergency powers. A deal in which Trump gets away with his border emergency and future presidents don’t get away with anything is not a great deal for Democrats.
The question mark in all this is what’s really motivating Mike Lee and his allies. This might be nothing more than a ploy to defeat the House resolution, with Lee et al. not caring at all if the House won’t consider his bill. The point might be nothing more or less than giving Susan Collins and other centrists a vehicle they can support in lieu of voting for the House resolution. If it succeeds in that and then Pelosi declares Lee’s bill DOA in the House, that’s fine. The bill will have served its purpose.
But if Lee is serious about wanting to rein in presidential emergency powers, he should suck it up and vote for the House resolution — or at least do what he can to make sure it passes. Then he could take that to Pelosi as evidence of his good faith, which might encourage her to bring his bill to the floor in the House. Maybe Trump would even sign it provided that the Senate doesn’t humiliate him by voting too overwhelmingly in favor of Pelosi’s resolution. And even if Trump decides not to sign it, the momentum generated by Lee and Pelosi collaborating on an attempt to redress abuses of emergency powers might(?) produce veto-proof majorities for the bill in both chambers. I doubt it; Pelosi would probably insist in that case that Republicans also provide a veto-proof majority in favor of the House resolution to cancel the border emergency, which ain’t happening. But this is a way to advance the ball. Pay Pelosi’s toll by passing the House resolution in the Senate with a bare majority of votes and then proceed with negotiations from there.