Congress handed President Donald Trump a pair of defeats Thursday, with Sen. Rob Portman joining a majority of senators to reject the president’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall on the Mexican border and the House urging public release of the final report expected to be filed this spring by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Portman, R-Ohio, joined 11 fellow Republicans on a measure to kill Trump’s plan to declare a national emergency in order to secure the money he wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also voted to reject the emergency.
Portman’s vote — which he had not announced before Thursday afternoon — came hours after the House voted 420-0 on a non-binding resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to make public Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion during the 2016 campaign between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s campaign.
The Senate’s 59–41 vote on the emergency will likely provoke the first veto of Trump’s presidency. The House backed its version of the proposal in late February, with Ohio Democrats unanimously supporting it and Ohio Republicans in unanimous opposition.
But even though Trump’s veto likely will be sustained, the votes Thursday were the first major rebukes of the president by Republicans since he took office in January of 2017.
Portman, who wrestled with the emergency declaration in the weeks leading up to the vote, said while a wall is necessary and the border crisis is a humanitarian crisis, he could not back what he called an “unprecedented” use of presidential power.
Instead, he suggested Trump use a different pot of money that would not require taking money from military construction projects, as the Trump emergency declaration would do.
“I believe that the president’s use of the national emergency declaration to access already approved military construction project funding in this case is wrong,” Portman said.
He added that Trump’s emergency declaration “opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want and take funding from other areas Congress has decided on without Congress’s approval.”
“Each one of us in this body has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “So today I will vote to support the resolution before us.”
Portman had suggested alternative solutions to pay for the wall, such as using money designated to fight drugs or organized crime in addition to the $1.4 billion Congress approved for the wall earlier this year.
Trump made his feelings clear well before the vote: “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime and the Open Border Democrats!” he tweeted.
Trump in mid-February announced he’d use some $3.6 billion in military construction dollars addition to other appropriated dollars from last year to pay for the wall. Among the dollars potentially affected: $61 million to replace a World War II–era National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
Portman’s vote to terminate the emergency came hours after every House Republican and Democrat from Ohio called for release of the Mueller report in a nearly unanimous vote; four GOP lawmakers voted “present.”
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said the “report must be made public so we can continue to have faith in our electoral system.”
Columbus-area Rep. Troy Balderson, R–Zanesville, called the Mueller resolution “a no-brainer: make the Mueller report public so Americans can get answers and move forward. Those who have broken the law should be held accountable, and those who are innocent may clear their names.”
Mueller, the former director of the FBI, has to file a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on the results of his investigation into whether there was any collusion during the 2016 campaign between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s campaign to damage the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R–Marietta, said “the bottom line is that all of us paid for this investigation through our tax dollars. Just as many of you are, I will be interested in reading the report’s conclusions. And, I have confidence that Attorney General Barr will do the right thing and release what he can.”