ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump tweeted a single word this afternoon - veto, exclamation point. He was responding to a congressional vote terminating his national emergency declaration to build a wall. In the Senate, a dozen Republicans broke with the White House to side with Democrats. The democratically-controlled House had already voted against the emergency declaration. The president has been consistent all along about how he would respond. This is what he said earlier today before the Senate vote.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, no. I don't know what the vote will be. It doesn't matter. I'll probably have to veto.
SHAPIRO: And this would be the first veto of the Trump presidency. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now. Hi, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: The outcome of this vote was not in doubt because Democrats had enough support from Republicans to pass it. But how surprising is it that 12 Republicans broke with the White House?
DAVIS: You know, when you think about how reluctant Republicans generally are to break with President Trump, especially on an issue like the wall, it does speak to how deep the concern is in Congress that there's something much bigger at stake here. Those 12 Republicans who sided with Democrats - they all support the wall. The question is about whether President Trump is operating within the bounds of the Constitution, not with the national emergency declaration itself. The law is pretty unambiguous that he has the authority to declare national emergencies, but it's in the question of using that authority to then redirect this money that Congress has already decided to be spent elsewhere. So what Congress is saying is that they are trying to overturn the president's February 15th order, which aims to redirect about $6 billion to build a wall.
SHAPIRO: Assuming that the president follows through on his promise to veto this, there are not enough votes to overturn his veto, override it. So where does it go from here?
DAVIS: So 16 states have already filed legal challenges to the president's declaration, so that has to play out. Democrats on Capitol Hill also say they intend to fight it in the courts. The vote by Congress, while it doesn't have the votes to override, could play a factor in these legal challenges 'cause it will send a message to the courts about what the legislative branch's position is here. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - before this, he had privately urged the president not to go down this path, although ultimately, today he voted with the White House. But when he was speaking on the floor today, he made the point that if Congress doesn't like the way the president's using these powers, they should do something about it. This is what he said.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: He has simply operated within existing law - the National Emergencies Act of 1976 - to invoke a narrow set of authorities to reprogram a narrow set of funds. If Congress has grown uneasy with this new law, as many have, then we should amend it.
DAVIS: The catch here, Ari? A lot of Republicans actually did try to do that. There was a last-minute effort this week among some Senate Republicans to say to the White House, we'll vote down the resolution if the president will say he will support legislation to limit future presidential authority to declare national emergencies. And President Trump told Republicans he could not commit to supporting that.
SHAPIRO: And what's really amazing, Sue, is this is the second vote this week where the Republican-controlled Senate rejected Trump administration positions. There was also a vote on ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which the administration supports. Is this a sea change? I mean, are we living in a different era now?
DAVIS: It is certainly a different chapter. You know, for his first two years in office, President Trump had Republicans in control of the House and Senate. They worked very hard to accommodate the president, move his legislative agenda. I think on, you know, a singular basis, lawmakers still overwhelmingly support President Trump. But as the next two years unfold, he's got a loyal opposition in the House. And he does have a not-insignificant number of Republican senators who, at turns, are uneasy about his foreign policy, his trade policy and, as we saw today, his possible executive overreach.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks a lot.
DAVIS: You're very welcome.
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