President Trump on Friday issued his first veto, rejecting legislation to overturn his declaration of a national emergency to fund a wall along the southern border.
“Today, I am vetoing this resolution,” Trump told reporters in a veto ceremony held in the Oval Office. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it. And I’m very proud to veto it.”
Trump called the resolution “dangerous” and “reckless,” arguing that the nation’s immigration system has reached a “breaking point.”
“As President, the protection of the nation is my highest duty,” Trump said. “Yesterday, Congress passed a dangerous resolution that, if signed into law, would put countless Americans in danger — very grave danger. The Democrat-sponsored resolution would terminate vital border security operations by revoking the national emergency issued last month. It is definitely a national emergency.”
Joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, officials from Customs and Border Patrol, ICE, and law enforcements, as well as families of those who have been victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants known as Angel Families.
Barr said in the Oval Office that the president’s veto was “clearly authorized under the law and consistent with past precedents.”
“The humanitarian and security crisis we have on the border right now is exactly the kind of emergency that presidents are permitted to address under the National Emergencies Act,” Barr said. “So what you’ve done from a legal standpoint is solidly grounded in law. And from the standpoint of protecting the American people, it’s imperative.”
Vice President Pence said the president was checking off his campaign promise.
“The crisis on our southern border is a crisis all across this nation,” Pence said. “And today, Mr. President, with your strong support for the men and women of law enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security, and with, I know, what is your love in your heart for these Angel parents, you’re keeping your word by vetoing this legislation, by finding the available resources to build the wall, address this emergency, and secure our border.”
Trump declared the emergency to authorize moving $3.6 billion from a military construction budget in an effort to construct physical barriers along the southern border.
The veto came a day after a dozen Republicans joined Senate Democrats in voting to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration, in a vote of 59 to 41. The House passed the measure last month by a vote of 245-182.
The president shortly after the vote tweeted “VETO!,” signaling the next step.
Democrats quickly condemned the president’s action.
“It is no surprise that the president holds the rule of law and our Constitution in minimal regard,” Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “There is no emergency; Congress has refused to fund his wall multiple times; Mexico won’t pay for it; and a bipartisan majority in both chambers just voted to terminate his fake emergency.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the veto a “lawless power grab.”
“The House and Senate resoundingly rejected the president’s lawless power grab, yet the president has chosen to continue to defy the Constitution, the Congress and the will of the American people,” the statement reads. “House Republicans will have to choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution.”
Nielsen thanked the president in a tweet for the veto.
Thank you @POTUS for standing up for America, supporting @DHSgov and declaring this humanitarian & security crisis exactly what it is – a national emergency. It was a pleasure to see our great partners in state & local law enforcement & the Angel parents in the Oval Office today!— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) March 15, 2019
Sen. Lindsey Graham says he supports Trump’s veto.
“President Trump is right to declare an emergency on our southern border and he’s right on the law allowing him to reallocate funds to secure our southern border,” Graham said
Many Republicans who vote with Democrats to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration said they were not rejecting the President or the wall, but were voting in defense of the separation of power under the constitution and for protection against future president, particularly Democrats in using a national emergency for other issues such as gun control and climate change.
Trump understood why some Republicans voted against the emergency declaration, saying they were “doing what they have to do.”
“They are doing what they have to do, and I put no pressure on anybody,” Trump said. “I actually said, ‘I could have gotten some of them to come along.’ I said: ‘I want you to vote your heart. Do what you want to do. I’m not putting any pressure.'”
He added, “I’ll let them know when there’s pressure, O.K.? And I told them that. I said, ‘When I need your vote, I’m going to let you know.’ I didn’t need the vote because we all knew it was going to be a veto, and they’re not going to be able to override. It’s going to go very quickly.”
The veto sends the resolution back to Congress. A vote is scheduled for March 26. Two-thirds of the chamber are needed to override the veto, an unlikely situation to occur since the House falls short of the votes needed to succeed. Only 13 House Republicans voted last month in favor of the resolution. About 50 House Republicans are needed to join forces with the 235 Democrats for an override. This means his emergency declaration would survive, but it can still faces several legal challenges in federal court.
A coalition of 20 states, including California and New York, sued last month over Mr. Trump’s use of emergency powers, arguing that the president does not have the authority to divert funds for building a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending.