A controversial and incomplete section of the border wall along the Rio Grande River in South Texas. Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune
WASHINGTON — Backing a resolution spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to block President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.
Several Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in support of the measure, but Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas both voted against the resolution —which Trump has vowed to veto. On Wednesday night, Cruz joined a pair of his colleagues and went to the White House to try to work out a deal with the president, The Washington Post reported. But Trump reiterated his plans for a veto Thursday.
“When your negotiating partners refuse to take a seat at the table, normal goes out the window,” Cornyn said during Thursday’s floor debate. “Our colleagues across the aisle left the president with few options to fund what he believed were so important for the nation’s security, and that’s what led us to this situation.”
In an op-ed in USA Today, a group of attorneys general, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued why they believe the emergency declaration is constitutional. That position is counter to the American Civil Liberties Union and 20 other state attorneys general — including those from border states California and New Mexico — who are challenging the declaration.
Last month, Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying billions of dollars in additional funding was needed to build more barriers. After that declaration, the Democratic-led House endorsed Castro’s resolution in a vote primarily split along party lines. The sole Texas Republican member of the House to vote for the resolution was Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, who has repeatedly denounced a border wall as the “most expensive and least effective” way to handle border security. His district includes more of the Mexican border than any other district. In authoring the legislation, Castro said it was needed as a safeguard for the separation of powers among the branches of the federal government. As senators debated the resolution Thursday, Castro watched from the back of the upper chamber.
After the Senate’s vote, Castro faulted Cornyn and Cruz. “This was not an emergency,” he said. “The senators have not been listening to the people or the elected officials who live on the border. They’ve been ignoring them for a long time.”
In a statement, Cruz said the vote was difficult and that he shared his colleagues’ concerns about the emergency powers that Congress has given the president over the last half-century. But he said that the vote was ultimately about addressing a crisis at the border.
“We cannot end this emergency without securing our southern border, and we cannot secure our border without building a wall,” Cruz said.
Although Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky couldn’t stop Thursday’s floor vote on the resolution because it was designated as a privileged measure.
Read related Tribune coverage
- How U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro led the Democrats against President Donald Trump’s emergency order
- Legal experts: Emergency declaration may not be quickest way to build wall
- Trump announces national emergency at U.S.-Mexico border