Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday afternoon, rejecting a congressional resolution that would have blocked him from funding his border wall without congressional approval.
“Consistent with the law and the legislative process designed by our founders, today I am vetoing this resolution,“ Trump said. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it. And I’m very proud to veto it.”
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The president’s veto comes a day after 12 Republicans joined Senate Democrats to rebuke the president’s decision to declare a national emergency last month in order to redirect funds to build a wall on the southern border.
The resolution was a stunning bipartisan rebuke to Trump, but lawmakers currently do not have the votes to overturn his veto.
Trump on Friday was flanked by a crowd as he approved the veto in the Oval Office, including Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. A group relatives of people purportedly killed by undocumented immigrants, called “angel parents” by the president, and law enforcement representatives also attended the veto signing.
Trump called the resolution “dangerous” and “reckless,” arguing that the nation’s immigration system has reached a “breaking point.”
Trump also preached his “America first” policy, arguing that over the years Congress has not attempted to block emergency declarations involving overseas affairs. “We don’t worry about our land,” he said. “We worry about other people’s lands.”
Barr said in the Oval Office Friday 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.
The liberal advocacy group Public Citizen has already filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the emergency declaration while the American Civil Liberties Union, the state of California and other groups have pledged to also challenge it.
The president himself acknowledged in his speech Friday that litigation could halt the maneuver temporarily.
Thursday’s Senate vote followed an unsuccessful whipping effort by the president and White House to persuade skeptical Republicans to stick with the president. Ultimately, despite last-minute efforts by a handful of senators to reach a compromise that would have modified the 1976 National Emergencies Act, the president told Republican lawmakers to vote however they pleased.
The emergency declaration has proved a conundrum for GOP lawmakers torn between supporting his border security efforts and asserting Congress’ power to allocate federal funds. Trump said Friday he had sympathy for those who, facing this choice, voted for the resolution to condemn executive overreach.
“I’ll let them know when there’s pressure, OK? And I told them that,” Trump said. “When I need people, I’m going to let you know.”
The president added that he didn’t need the votes because “there’s not going to be an override.” Neither chamber mustered the support for the resolution necessary to override a presidential veto, which requires two-thirds of the vote in both chambers. Still, the House is expected to vote on March 26 to try to override the veto.
The rebuke from members of his own party was a blow to Trump, especially because it involved his core campaign promise to construct a massive wall along the border. In a tweet ahead of the veto, Trump predicted that the Republicans who stuck with him will be rewarded by voters back home.
“I’d like to thank all of the Great Republican Senators who bravely voted for Strong Border Security and the WALL,“ Trump tweeted. “This will help stop Crime, Human Trafficking, and Drugs entering our Country. Watch, when you get back to your State, they will LOVE you more than ever before!“
The president’s move also comes two days after the Senate voted to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s bloody civil war, a measure Trump has pledged to veto as well.