DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., voted Thursday against overturning President Trump’s national emergency declaration at the southern border, though 12 of his Republican colleagues joined Democrats to pass the first measure the president is expected to veto.
The resolution passed the Senate in a 59-41 vote after previously passing the House and sets up the first major rebuke of the president by his own party since he took office in 2017. The measure needed 51 votes to pass.
Gardner, who faces a stiff Senate challenge by Democrats for his seat in 2020, had previously been on the fence as to how he would vote on such a measure, but he told Colorado Public Radio that he would tell the president “that I think Congress needs to do its job.”
After Thursday’s vote, Gardner blamed Democratic leadership for the president’s declaration. He and the president endorsed one another in January.
“There is a crisis at the border and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have prevented a solution. As a result, the President has declared a national immigration emergency, legal authority which he clearly has under the 1976 law, a law invoked 56 times by every previous President since Jimmy Carter,” Gardner said in a statement.
“It should never have come to this, but in the absence of Congressional action, the President did what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer refused to do,” he added.
But the president only made the emergency declaration after Congress declined to appropriate his much-sought $5.7 billion in border wall money that shut the government down for 35 days. Republicans and Democrats reopened the government by passing a bill that did not include the border wall money.
A second deal to keep the government open – without the border money – was approved in February in overwhelmingly-bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate, which Trump also signed.
But some Republicans, like Gardner, have struggled with supporting the president and his GOP base – 76 percent of which supported an emergency declaration, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from last month – and fighting what some have said are overreaches by the president when it comes to appropriations and spending.
Twelves Republicans in total voted in favor of the measure Thursday.
Gardner’s fellow senator from Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet (D), voted in favor of the measure after a floor speech that blasted Trump’s declaration.
“[President Trump] couldn’t get a Republican House and a Republican Senate to pay for the wall. So now he’s violating the Constitution to steal money that has been appropriated by this branch—by Congress—and he’s stealing that money from the Department of Defense—from our war fighters, from the United States military—to expropriate private land held by American farmers and ranchers—many of whom I assume are Republicans—through eminent domain…If any president tried to do that in Colorado, there’s not a person in our delegation that would support that,” Bennet said in his speech.
If Thursday’s Senate vote holds true in an attempt to override a likely veto by Trump, it would fail. And Trump made clear after the vote he had no intention of signing the measure.
“VETO!” he tweeted.
"I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!" Trump added.
Gardner and some other Republicans pointed to a large rise in apprehensions at the border in recent months as reason why the emergency declaration should hold true. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said earlier this month that the U.S. was “currently facing a humanitarian security crisis along our southwest border.”
But groups eager to unseat Gardner in 2020 jumped on his vote Thursday, noting that Trump himself had previously said that he “didn’t need to do this” regarding the emergency declaration and that Gardner had waffled for weeks on a public decision.
“Today, Senator Gardner made it abundantly clear that his loyalty is to Donald Trump over the United States Constitution and his constituents in Colorado,” Colorado Democratic Party spokesman David Pourshoushtari said in a statement. “Coloradans won’t forget this, and Senator Gardner will face the consequences in November 2020.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser have already joined a lawsuit along with several other states to fight the emergency declaration over what they say are the millions of dollars the state’s military installations stand to potentially lose, as the declaration would allow the administration to divert money away from a military construction budget previously appropriated by Congress.
A House Appropriations Committee list of projects possibly at-risk under an emergency declaration, obtained by Denver7 earlier this month, showed around $100 million worth of construction projects at Fort Carson were on the list.
But Annalyse Keller, a spokesman for Gardner, told Denver7 after the vote that Gardner had received assurances from the Trump administration that no FY2019 money would be repurposed from Colorado’s military installations under the emergency declaration.