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Suddenly, Trump Finds Congress Revolting

For most of his time in the White House, congressional Republicans have behaved as though Donald Trump was holding their children hostage in a White House dungeon. They’ve been eager to please, quick to excuse and deathly afraid to challenge. They’ve been distinguishable from sheep only because sheep don’t volunteer to be shorn.

But lately, some in the flock have been baring their teeth. Being humiliated, ignored and taken for granted by an overbearing narcissist who has little regard for conservative principles has lost its charm for a group of Republican lawmakers. They have begun to act on the novel idea that they have every right to oppose a president of their own party when he’s wrong.

We got inklings last year. Following the murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian agents, President Trump allowed no daylight between him and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to have ordered the killing. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sneered that the objections were mere “caterwauling” from the “salons of Washington.” On a visit to Riyadh, Trump did everything short of picking up the prince’s dry cleaning to show that nothing had changed.

The brown-nosing was too much for many lawmakers to bear. In December, the Republican-controlled Senate approved a resolution stipulating that “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi” and demanding that the Saudi government “ensure appropriate accountability for all those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.”

On Wednesday, Trump got another fastball under his chin. The Senate voted to cut off American military aid to the Saudi war effort in Yemen — which has produced what the United Nations ranks as the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was one of the Republicans urging his colleagues to “end our involvement in this unauthorized, unjustified and immoral war.” Seven GOP members chose to break with the administration.

The House must approve the measure, and if it does, Trump will have to decide whether to exercise his veto for the first time. He used it Friday on one, passed by the Senate Thursday, that invalidated the national emergency he declared in February in order to filch funds to build his border wall.

He had resorted to this ploy because of yet another show of defiance on Capitol Hill. Unable to strong-arm Congress to grant him $5.7 billion for this harebrained project, he put the country through a pointless 35-day government shutdown before finally signing a short-term funding bill. When lawmakers passed a longer-term funding bill, they again omitted his favorite fantasy. He signed that bill as well — and then resorted to the bogus decree to redirect money Congress had provided for other purposes.

Presidential emergency declarations have become a regular feature of our dysfunctional government. Trump, however, upped the ante, using it to get something Congress had refused him even when the GOP controlled both houses. Democrats denounced his declaration as an outrageous expansion of presidential power — and chortled that a Democratic president could someday make use of this option for grand progressive purposes. On Thursday, a dozen GOP senators joined them in telling Trump where he could put his emergency.

This sort of independence should not be the rare exception. The framers of the Constitution took it for granted that Congress would stoutly resist efforts by the president to expand his role. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote, “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” He actually worried about “the weakness of the executive” in the face of an overly powerful Congress.

His fears were misplaced. In recent practice, party loyalty has often disabled the checks and balances in the Constitution. Members of both parties have often found it congenial to surrender control to the president.

On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said the Yemen vote means that “Congress is going to reassert its constitutional responsibility over issues of war that have been abdicated.” That greatly overstates the case, considering that Congress has not acted to end military operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya or Niger.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Trump Tells Senate: Ignore The Constitution And Support The Wall

Trump is demanding Senate Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution and show loyalty to him on the issue of the fake national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Senate Republicans are not voting on constitutionality or precedent, they are voting on desperately needed Border Security & the Wall,” Trump said Wednesday afternoon. “Our Country is being invaded with Drugs, Human Traffickers, & Criminals of all shapes and sizes. That’s what this vote is all about. STAY UNITED!”

Trump is referring to an upcoming Senate vote to block the fake national emergency declaration. The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives already passed the measure by a wide margin, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring the measure up for a vote in the Senate in the coming weeks, where it is expected to pass with the help of a small number of Republicans.

Trump declared a national emergency in mid-February after Congress rejected his request for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Trump’s obsession with building the wall is so intense that he was willing to shut down the government for 35 days. But that didn’t work. After Trump finally signed legislation to reopen the government, he declared a national emergency so he could steal funds from other programs to build his wall.

Trump’s abusive power grab alarmed national security experts and even former Republican members of Congress. After all, the Constitution gives Congress the power to make funding decisions, not the Executive Branch.

More than 20 former Republican members of Congress sent a letter to current members, pleading with them to “resist efforts to surrender” to Trump on this issue. “Our oath is to put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president,” the letter stated.

But Trump wants only what he wants, and is obviously willing to ignore the dictates laid out in the Constitution if it serves his self-interest.

No matter what Trump says, all senators are taking a vote on the constitutionality of Trump’s power grab. His attempt to bully Senate Republicans just proves he’s backed into a corner with no options left.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

McConnell Admits He Can’t Block Senate Rebuke Of Trump ‘Emergency’

A majority of senators announced their intention to block Trump’s fake national emergency on the southern border. The vote would be both a stinging rebuke to Trump and an abject failure by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to prop up Trump’s failing agenda.

“I think what is clear in the Senate is that there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval,” McConnell said Monday morning.

Senate Democrats have opposed Trump’s fake national emergency since he announced it in mid-February. And over the weekend, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his plan to join the Democrats, becoming the fourth Republican to do so. By teaming up with the Democratic-led effort, the handful of Republicans push the total number of votes to block the declaration to 51, ensuring the resolution will pass when it comes to the floor later this month.

In late February, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a simple, 54-word resolution to block Trump’s fake national emergency by a vote of 245-182. Under the provisions of the National Emergencies Act, McConnell is barred from preventing the House-passed resolution coming up for a vote in the Senate.

The votes come after Trump spent months begging and bullying Congress to hand him $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Congress repeatedly rejected Trump’s pleas, even after Trump took the paychecks of 800,000 federal workers hostage during a 35-day government shutdown.

During the shutdown, Trump threatened to issue a national emergency if he didn’t get his way. At the time, even McConnell opposed the idea. Yet McConnell eventually caved on his own principles and supported Trump’s questionably legal decision to declare an emergency.

Some of McConnell’s colleagues were not impressed with that decision. “You’re watching Mitch McConnell eat a manure sandwich in this whole process,” former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said of McConnell raising the white flag.

In defense of Monday’s admission of defeat, McConnell added that he thinks Trump will reject the advice of Congress and veto the measure. McConnell added that he does not think Congress has the necessary two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto.

If the Senate does pass the resolution of disapproval, Trump would use the first veto of his presidency in a blatant attempt to usurp Congress’ constitutional authority to set funding priorities for the country.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly and explicitly promised Mexico would pay for any wall along the border. After two years in office, Trump failed to convince Mexico to pay for it.

And when the Senate votes to reject Trump’s emergency, it will be yet another time Trump failed to convince Congress to force taxpayers to pay for it.

But Trump will toss aside campaign promises and the will of Congress in his unending obsession for a wall on the border.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Rand Paul Will Support Senate Resolution Voiding Trump’s ‘Emergency’

In a speech on Saturday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said he will vote for a resolution blocking President Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wall on the U.S. southern border, setting the stage for the bill to pass in a humiliating defeat for the president.

According to a report in the the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul told Republicans attending the Southern Kentucky Lincoln Day Dinner that he “can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president.”

“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” he said. “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

Should he votes for the resolution, Paul would be the fourth Republican to join Democrats in opposing the emergency declaration and standing up for the constitutional separation of powers.Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) all announced their opposition. Last week Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) warned Trump that the declaration might prompt Republicans to resist his excesses. Only four Republican votes are needed for a simple majority to pass the resolution.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have already passed a disapproval resolution. But with a threatened veto by Trump, neither house has the votes needed to override.