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Did Their Actions Match Their Words?

Comparing their votes to their expressed concerns.
by Jim Swift
March 16, 2019
Did Their Actions Match Their Words?
(Illustration by Hannah Yoest / photos: GettyImages / Gage Skidmore / Jamelle Bouie)

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 16, 2019 at 12:46 PM.]

After declaring a national emergency Friday to reallocate funds to go toward a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump said  “I didn’t need to do this” (before he boarded Air Force One to spend the weekend at Mar a Lago). Here is a list of senators, congressional representatives, scholars, pundits, and writers who either oppose the declaration outright, or are concerned about the future precedent it would set.

(List below last updated 3/14/19 at 3:22 p.m.)

House Members and Senators

Update 1: The House passed a measure on 2/26/19 by a vote of 245 to 182 that would terminate the President’s national emergency declaration. Thirteen Republican members of the House voted to terminate it.

Update 2: The Senate passed the House’s resolution by a vote of 59 to 41 on 3/14/19. Twelve Republican members of the Senate voted to terminate it. The President has announced he will veto the measure. There are not enough votes in the House to override his veto.


Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine):disappointed” “Such a declaration would undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska):[doesn’t] think this is a matter that should be declared a national emergency.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania): I never thought that was a good idea. I still don’t. My view is that this is better to be resolved through the legislative process.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee):Declaring a national emergency is unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska): We absolutely have a crisis at the border, but as a Constitutional conservative I don’t want a future Democratic President unilaterally rewriting gun laws or climate policy. If we get used to presidents just declaring an emergency any time they can’t get what they want from Congress, it will be almost impossible to go back to a Constitutional system of checks and balance. Over the past decades, the legislative branch has given away too much power and the executive branch has taken too much power.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “I agree with the president that we have a crisis on our southern border and that we need additional barriers and fencing.  As I have said before, I would prefer we work together to find a legislative solution instead of declaring a national emergency that will likely be tied up in the courts.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia): “I have a lot of trouble with any one person having that much power without a check and a balance, even in a crisis… I’m not (universally) opposed (to) it, but I’m also not without reservation until I know how much power it’s going to grant. And if it’s solely one individual, I want to know how they’re going to execute it.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida): We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution:  Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal. I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement. But I am skeptical it will be something I can support.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin): It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina): I don’t believe a national emergency declaration is the solution.After announcing he would vote to terminate, Tillis changed his mind and voted against terminating the national emergency declaration.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas):My concerns about an emergency declaration were the precedent it would establish… I also thought it would not be a practical solution because there would be a lawsuit filed immediately and the money would presumably be balled up associated with that litigation. I thought there were other, better alternatives.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota):If you get another President who believes that climate change is the crisis of the day, that means they could then funnel money out of ongoing programs into climate change…” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa):I wish he wouldn’t have done it…I imagine we’ll find out whether he’s got the authority to do it by the courts.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas): “Throughout my time in the Congress, particularly in the Senate, I have complained about administrations taking more and more of what is constitutionally the responsibility of the United States Congress… But I also complain that Congress allows it to happen.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky):not in favorrevenue raising and spending power was given to Congress.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri): While I’m in favor of what this president wants to do [on the border wall], I think it sets a dangerous precedent and I hope he doesn’t do it.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah): “I will reserve judgment on any potential executive action by the president until I am able to fully evaluate it, but as I’ve said, I do not believe declaring a national emergency is the right approach… I would also expect the president to stay within statutory and constitutional limits.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator Mike Lee, (R-Utah): My initial assessment is that what Pres. Trump announced is legal. Whether or not it should be legal is a different matter. Congress has been ceding far too much power to the exec. branch for decades. We should use this moment as an opportunity to start taking that power back.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming): “I would prefer we get it done through the legislative process rather than a presidential emergency because I just think that’s not the path we want to do down… and the president or every president can decide if they want to use that or not. Presidents have used it in the past on things were there was complete bipartisan agreement. This is, at this point, disagreement on how to proceed so I think it would be the best for the President if he could get what we can get through this agreement, and then re-purpose other money to accomplish every goal that he has lined out in terms of border security.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma): “The best thing that we can do is actually reprogram funds… That fund’s allocated to certain law enforcement entities or to national defense entities and to be able to say those funds can also be used for border security, including anything on a barrier. That stays within the parameters of the law, we don’t have to deal with a court case… If you get into a court case in declaring a national emergency, moving from one fund to another is going to get caught up in the courts for a couple of years and it doesn’t solve the problem.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

The other Republican members of the Senate who voted to terminate the declaration were Rob Portman (Ohio) and Roger Wicker (Mississippi).


Rep. Will Hurd (Texas 23rd): I’ve made it very clear, I don’t think there’s a need to declare a national emergency… Now, it’s within his powers to do that. However the question could be, where does he find the money to do this?” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington 5th): I do not support this decision because declaring a national emergency sets a very dangerous precedent that undermines our constitutional separation of powers. By circumventing Congress and Article I of the Constitution, President Trump is opening the door for any future president to act alone without Congressional approval.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah 2nd): I think President Trump is making a mistake by declaring a national emergency in order to increase border funding,” Stewart said in a statement. “Whether the President has the authority or not, it sets a dangerous precedent and places America on a path that we will regret.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Rep. Justin Amash (Michigan 3rd): A national emergency declaration for a non-emergency is void. A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio 16th): However, my fear is that any action to assign further funds for physical barriers on our border would set a dangerous precedent whereby a future president whom I do not support could declare a different national emergency to enact a different set of policies without the consent or the approval of Congress.” Voted against terminating national emergency declaration.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin 8th): 1. It’ll likely get tied up in the courts; 2. They didn’t like it when Obama did everything through Executive fiat; 3. They’ll not like it when a future Democratic president declares a climate emergency to seize airplanes and farting cows. This is bad policy and bad process.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Washington 3rd): If President Obama had ever hinted at using emergency powers in this way, I would have spoken out strongly against it, and consistency demands that I do the same now.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (New York 21st): “I remain committed to keeping the government open and securing the border and I support the bipartisan appropriations package… However, I believe that declaring a national emergency is the wrong decision and will be challenged in the courts.” Voted to terminate national emergency declaration.

The other Republican members of the House who voted to terminate the declaration were: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD), Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-4), Rep. Francis Rooney (FL-19), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-5), Rep. Fred Upton (MI-6), and Rep. Greg Walden (OR-2).

Scholars, Pundits, and Journalists

Gary Schmitt, Director of the Program on American Citizenship at the American Enterprise Institute: Building a wall may make good policy sense. Yet, for conservatives, no policy dispute should justify overturning the normal constitutional order unless there is a true, exceptional crisis at hand. Abraham Lincoln stretched the bounds of executive power during the opening days of the Civil War but did so in the name of saving the constitutional order and, hence, fulfilling his oath. Trump’s decision to declare an emergency and reprogram monies to build his promised wall is hardly that.

Matt Latimer, writer:Conservatives, which I suppose [Lindsey Graham] still claims to be, routinely extol the wisdom of the Founders. Anyone with even basic historical literacy knows the Founders were terrified of a strong Executive taking actions exactly like this.”

Bill Kristol: Republican members of Congress will face a time for choosing: Support Trump or the rule of law.

Charlie Sykes: Conservatives used to warn about “unintended consequences.” They’re about to realize how bad they can be….

Mona Charen: Declaring a national emergency about the border is the ultimate fake news. There is no emergency. But my friends on the left, please consider how silent you were when Obama abrogated unconstitutional powers to himself, e.g. DACA. Bad precedents begat worse.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: …Democratic abuses of power are no excuse for Republicans to do the same. The Framers created constitutional guardrails precisely to protect against the political passions of the moment.

Reid Ribble, former member of Congress: No President that I am aware of has ever “Re-appropriated” money after congress clearly said no. Plus, the first phrase of Article 1 gives legislative authority to Congress and nothing would imply that they can simply give that right away. Secondarily, the constitution reserves the right, in fact, vested the right, of appropriations to the Congress, not to the Courts or the Executive. Therefore ONLY the Congress can say how money is spent. POTUS can veto the spending bill, but he can’t appropriate funds. Furthermore the Courts can’t determine what an emergency is. They can only rule on the constitutional authorities as outlined therein.”

Lisa Boothe, Fox News: We will see how President Trump proceeds with this, but this makes it a whole lot easier for the next Democrat president to invoke a national emergency on guns, climate change, etc.

Marc Thiessen, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute: “Trump’s defenders will argue that Republicans should not deliver such a rebuke to their president. In fact, the opposite is true: It is Trump who should not be forcing Republicans to choose between fidelity to their president and fidelity to the Constitution. And if forced to choose, they must choose the Constitution.”

Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review: “Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build barriers is also an executive overreach. Congressional Republicans should vote to disapprove it, even if they favor a tougher approach to border security.”

Rich Lowry, National Review: “This would make Trump the second president in a row willing to cut Congress out of the legislative process if it doesn’t agree to his priorities on immigration, and is a very bad idea. It would functionally be an end run around Congress’ power of the purse; create yet another precedent for “pen and phone” governance, which is not how our system is meant to work; and probably not achieve his substantive or political goals.”

National Review: “We oppose the president’s decision to declare an emergency and repurpose billions of dollars of defense spending to the border, purportedly to support the military, not because we are confident it will be ultimately blocked by the courts, but regardless of whether it will ultimately be blocked by the courts. Even if the president technically has this authority, using it explicitly to bypass the congressional spending power is an abuse of it.”

Matt Lewis, senior columnist at the Daily Beast:Is wrong… It sets a dangerous precedent.

Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy writer: Why using emergency powers to build Trump’s wall is illegal, would set a dangerous precedent if he succeeds, and imperils of the property rights of large numbers of people. Other than that, it’s a great idea! [Link]”

Jonah Goldberg, National Review: The simple fact is that failing to get the budget you want from Congress isn’t a national emergency, regardless of how much you invoke national security and talk about invasion.

Philip Klein, Washington Examiner: [W]hatever the legal questions, this has no bearing on the fact that in terms of the long-term damage this would do for conservatives, this is a terrible idea.

Jay Caruso, Washington Examiner: All those cheering Trump declaring a national emergency (one doesn’t exist, folks) to ‘build the wall’ will have a whole different outlook when President O’Rourke does the same thing.”

Seth Mandel, Washington Examiner: Declarations of emergency in democracies are usually bad, always dangerous. The cherry on top of this particular one is that… there’s no emergency!”

David French, National Review: A national emergency declaration is an abuse of power, plain and simple. It violates the intent of the statutes and the plan language of the relevant law. Congress and the courts must check the president: [Link]”

James Wallner, R Street: If the situation at the border is really a national emergency, then why did Trump wait months, if not years, to act? Why didn’t Congress act? This is a transparent workaround for all involved. Trump works around Congress. Congress works around its responsibilities.

Michael Medved, talk radio host: Why is it obscene and idiotic to declare a #NationalEmergency over the border? Because there is NO Nat’l Emergency- by every standard the border is more secure than it was ten years ago, even 20 years ago. This is a despicable political stunt that subverts the Constitution.

Gov. John Kasich, former Ohio Governor: “The courts must quickly review his dubious emergency declaration so that he and future Presidents are limited in their ability to declare national emergencies.”

Jay Nordlinger, National Review: More A lot of us learned to love Mitch McConnell when he stood against campaign-finance reform of dubious constitutionality. His stance was not very popular, but it was refreshingly principled. I trust that Mitch knows, somewhere, somehow, that this national-emergency thing is BS.”

David Jolly, former congressman, talk radio host: Pro tip for those discussing national emergency: it can’t be called an unconstitutional exercise of power likely to be invalidated, AND said the next President will now use it for other priorities like climate change or guns. It’s exclusively one or the other.

Allahpundit, “Since future presidents will inevitably try to abuse emergency powers, I’d rather try to draw the line now in court with a fact pattern favorable to the anti side and an incompetent on the pro side.

Quin Hillyer, columnist: “President Trump’s assertion of supposed emergency powers to appropriate military money for a border wall runs directly afoul of the spirit and intended design of the Constitution.”

Ilya Shapiro, Director, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the CATO Institute: Even worse, today’s action sets a terrible precedent for future administrations, whose policy goals may be radically different. This action brings us one step closer to enacting major legislative goals—Medicare for all? Green New Deal? gun control?—through executive fiat. Nobody who takes the constitutional separation of powers seriously should support it.

Liz Wheeler, host, One America News Network:…a national emergency is not a wise move.”

Rick Wilson, political strategist: “This won’t end well for the GOP.”

Dana Loesch, host of The Dana Show: I don’t want this national emergency move to become the new Harry Reid’s filibuster reform.

Mike Murphy, political strategist: This fake emergency scam must be strongly opposed. Such an awful precedent; if this is allowed to happen future Presidents will be printing ‘national emergencies’ like Monopoly money. Both unconstitutional and extremely unwise. Dumb Trump/Peronist bullshit.”

Heather Mac Donald, Fellow at the Manhattan Institute: “[I]f we remove the constitutional boundaries around each branch of government, as Trump’s emergency funding appropriation threatens to do, we will have lost the very thing that makes Western democracies so attractive to the rest of the world. The Supreme Court, when the inevitable legal challenges reach it, should strike Trump’s declaration down.”

Ben Shapiro, editor of the Daily WireTrump shouldn’t be declaring a national emergency. The best legal case he has is 10 USC 284, declaring parts of the border drug corridors. No need to set a garbage legal precedent that will undoubtedly be exploited by the Democrats in short order.

Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI analyst:Horrible change of precedent for executive authority and the interpretation of ’emergency.’ 🚨The pilfering of funds from other legislatively-approved priorities is simply an end run around Congress and checks and balances. 🚨 And It will ultimately degrade military readiness 🚨”

Rick Berger, AEI research fellow:At some point, lawsuits challenging the emergency declaration would pause the whole gambit, leaving billions of defense dollars in limbo with any wall still unbuilt.”

Erick Erickson, writer and talk radio host:I’d rather a veto and shutdown than an emergency declaration.” “I continue to disagree with the President using an emergency declaration to bypass Congress. This degrades what an emergency means and Republicans who opposed Obama’s DACA executive order should also be opposed to this on principle.”

Ted Frank, director of litigation at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute: We are fortunate that this bad-faith use of the emergency power is only for a few billion dollars of boondoggle instead of much worse, but Congress should take the opportunity to take back the blank check it has given the executive.

Doug Heye, CNN commentator:Make no mistake: the next Democratic President will declare national emergencies on guns and climate change and cite the Trump precedent when doing so.”

Tom Nichols, professor and author:After their cowardice on everything from McCain to the Gold Star family to Helsinki, I don’t expect the Republicans will develop a spine or a sense of principle about the fake emergency. But when people ask why I think I have to vote for Dems to protect the rule of law… well.”

Noah Rothman, Commentary:This is a moment of extreme national cowardice. America’s governing institutions are abdicating their authority in pursuit of expedience and amid a craven scramble to save face. A precedent has been established that all Americans, but conservative Americans in particular, will long regret.

Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee:I think they’ve made that choice [between Trump and the rule of law.]”

Robert Tracinski, writer: “We have a national emergency of presidents declaring national emergencies.”

Jim Geraghty, National Review‘The Democrats are just gonna ignore the separation of powers in the Constitution when they get the presidency, so we should ignore it first’ is not a persuasive argument to those who respect the Constitution.

Scott Whitlock, associate editor at the Media Research Center: Republicans may like this emergency declaration now, but they won’t when a future President Warren or Kamala Harris does it for climate change or some other issue they aren’t excited to spend money on.

John Hawkins, founder of Right Wing News:I’ve wanted a wall on the border long before Trump came on the scene, but trying to do it via a ‘National Emergency’ would set a horrible precedent and would be bad for our Republic.”

Joe Walsh, Former congressman, radio host: Unless you’re fine with the next Democrat president declaring a national emergency over ‘climate change’ or gun control, you should oppose Trump declaring a national emergency.

Their names are below:

Steve Bartlett, former Rep. (R-TX)
Douglas Bereuter, former Rep. (R-NE)
Sherwood Boehlert, former Rep. (R-NY)
Rodney Chandler, former Rep. (R-WA)
William Clinger, Jr., former Rep. (R-PA)
Tom Coleman, former Rep. (R-MO)
John Danforth, former Senator (R-MO)
Mickey Edwards, former Rep. (R-OK)
David F. Emery, former Rep. (R-ME)
Chuck Hagel, former Senator (R-NE)
Gordon Humphrey, former Senator (R-NH)
Nancy Johnson, former Rep. (R-CT)
James Kolbe, former Rep. (R-AZ)
James Leach, former Rep. (R-IA)
John LeBoutillier, former Rep. (R-NY)
Richard Lugar, former Senator (R-IN)
Pete McCloskey, former Rep. (R-CA)
Thomas Petri, former Rep. (R-WI)
Claudine Schneider, former Rep. (R-RI)
Christopher Shays, former Rep. (R-CT)
Peter Smith, former Rep. (R-VT)
Olympia Snowe, former Senator (R-ME)
Alan Steelman, former Rep. (R-TX)

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.