What Sen. Paul’s decision to oppose Trump’s national emergency declaration means

The decision by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to vote in favor of blocking President Trump’s national emergency declaration for the border sets two things in motion on Capitol Hill:

1) It all but guarantees passage of the resolution overturning the declaration in the Senate.

2) It tees up President Trump’s first veto effort.

The Senate math is currently 53 Republicans and 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats.

All 47 Democrats are expected to vote in favor of the resolution, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa. When asked last week how he'd vote, Manchin told Fox he’d vote yes. Manchin also cited the fact that he now held the seat of the legendary, late Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, D-WVa. Byrd was very protective of Congressional prerogatives. He was also a longtime chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In other words, Byrd would probably take a dim view of Manchin if he voted otherwise.

Paul becomes the fourth Republican senator to support the effort to reject the national emergency. Others are Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark. The first two face competitive re-election bids next year. Also keep an eye on Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and perhaps Mike Lee, R-Utah. Others could be in play as well. Pay particular attention to appropriators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., has not set a firm date to deal with the national emergency disapproval bill on the floor. McConnell’s simply indicated the Senate would tackle the plan sometime before mid-March. Fox is told to keep an eye on March 14. Fox is also told the Senate would likely work out an arrangement to handle the issue in one day. The statute provides for up to three days of debate in the Senate.

A vote to overturn the resolution is yet another example of Senate GOP dissension when it comes to President Trump. In recent months, Republican senators broke with the President on a speedy withdrawal from Syria, how the administration dealt with Saudi Arabia following the death of Jamal Khashoggi and the cancellation of some Russian sanctions. Fox is told Mr. Trump was close to facing a “jailbreak” of GOP defections had the government not re-opened when it did following the shutdown.

If the Senate approves the package, the House and Senate are in alignment and the package goes to President Trump. This likely begs Mr. Trump’s first use of a veto.

President Obama vetoed his first piece of legislation after only 11 months on the job. President George W. Bush never vetoed a bill until he was in office for five-and-a-half years. President Bill Clinton didn’t use a veto until two-and-a-half years into his presidency.

Then comes the override attempt.

Successful veto overrides are rare. The gambit requires a two-thirds vote by both bodies of Congress. That’s 67 votes in the Senate, provided all 100 senators cast ballots. 427 House members cast ballots on the bill to block the national emergency last week. So the yardstick there is 285 yeas. 245 members voted in favor of the bill. Thus, the House fell 40 votes short.


We are not expecting a successful override of a prospective veto of the national emergency. The math simply isn’t there.

It’s possible there could not be an attempt to override. The last unsuccessful attempt to override a veto came in January, 2016. President Obama vetoed a Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House voted 241-186, well short of the 285 yeas needed to override. The maneuver never went to the Senate since the override maneuver failed in the House.

Note that the vote to override is based on how many lawmakers ACTUALLY TAKE PART IN THE OVERRIDE ATTEMPT, not on how many members voted on the bill when it passed both bodies. So, determining a PRECISE number is impossible until the veto override vote is actually concluded.

The last successful veto override came in September, 2016. President Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The measure allowed families of 9/11 victims to sue those responsible or the attacks, including Saudi Arabia. The Senate voted 97-1 to override Mr. Obama (66 voted were needed). The House voted 348-77 with one lawmaker voting president. 284 yeas were needed for the override.

Prior to 2016, the last three successful overrides came on bills vetoed by President George. W. Bush. The House and Senate overrode the President’s veto on two versions of the Farm bill in May and June of 2008. The House and Senate then overrode Mr. Bush’s veto of a Medicare expansion plan in July, 2008.