Tennessee senators split on Trump rebuke

Robert Houk • Mar 15, 2019 at 12:15 AM

Tennessee’s two Republicans in the U.S. Senate split Thursday on a resolution overturning President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border.

The state’s senior senator, Lamar Alexander, voted for the measure. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee’s freshman senator, opposed the rebuke.

Trump has said he will veto the congressional resolution blocking his declaration.

Alexander said in a new release that while he supports Trump‘s stand on border security, the president’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the Southern border sets “a dangerous precedent.” He said Democrats running for president are already “saying they would declare emergencies to tear down the existing border wall, take away guns, stop oil exports, shut down offshore drilling and other leftwing enterprises — all without the approval of Congress.”

He said the president’s emergency declaration takes “$3.6 billion that Congress has appropriated for military hospitals, barracks and schools and is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution that I swore an oath to support and defend.”

Meanwhile, Blackburn told reporters on a conference call Thursday she would “stand with President Trump and the people of Tennessee, who want to see the wall built.” She said until human and drug trafficking is stopped at the Southern border, “every town is a border town, and every state is a border state.”

She said many presidents have made emergency declarations going to back to 1976 when Congress gave the executive branch those powers. She said the act was used 17 times by President Bill Clinton, 12 times under President George W. Bush and 13 times by President Barack Obama, noting the latter used the act “to declare a national emergency for swine flu.”

Blackburn said Congress should indeed take back the constitutional powers it has ceded to the executive branch in recent years, but that doesn’t mean there’s not “a humanitarian crisis” at the border with Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said Thursday he doesn’t expect the Democratic-controlled House to come up with the two-thirds vote needed to override a presidential veto. The 1st District congressman, who voted against the resolution when it was passed by the House in February, said the U.S. Supreme Court will likely be asked to sort out the constitutional issues.

Roe said attorneys for the White House believe the president does have the constitutional authority to declare an emergency at the border “under three or four code sections” of the National Emergencies Act. He said the entire issue could have been avoided had “ Congress done its job” and fully funded the border wall.

On another legislative matter, Roe and his Republican colleagues joined Democrats on Thursday to approve a non-binding resolution asking the U.S. Department of Justice release to Congress and the public the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s presidential campaign.

The tally was 420 to 0, with four Republicans voting present.

“I found no reason not to agree,” Roe told reporters on a conference call.

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