The 12 GOP Senators Who Voted Against Trump's National Emergency Declaration

By Dan Cadman on March 20, 2019

As most readers know, enough Republican senators (12 of them, in a closely divided chamber in which they hold the majority by the tips of their fingers) voted with Democrats in both the House and Senate to force to President Trump's desk for signature, a congressional measure whose effect would have been to eviscerate his own immigration emergency declaration.

Virtually every one of the senators who joined the Democrats spoke at one point or another about "principles" and the need to oppose presidential overreach. But one wonders: Why were those principles not so clearly on display during the breathtaking presidential overreaches of the Obama administration? For instance, when he sidestepped congressional treaty oversight with his "Iran deal" and gave the mullahs billions of dollars in cash — much of it on pallets of used money of various currencies air-freighted in the middle of the night?

Adding insult to injury, according to the Los Angeles Times, "The money came from a little-known fund administered by the Treasury Department for settling litigation claims. The so-called Judgment Fund is taxpayer money Congress has permanently approved in the event it's needed, allowing the president to bypass direct congressional approval to make a settlement." (Emphasis added.) Note that the intent of the fund was settling of claims for litigation against the Iranian regime due to its past engagement in, or support of, terrorism that cost Americans their lives, not for giving money to Iran.

And where were their principles when the Obama administration initiated its constitutionally dubious "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) amnesty without benefit of a single statute authorizing such action, unlike the laws undergirding this president's emergency declaration, which can be found in at least two places: the National Emergencies Act and the language embedded in Section 103(a)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Considered in this light, the senators' claims of standing on principle seem suspiciously thin.

Needless to say, the president vetoed the action (see here and here). At this juncture it's seen as safe from future congressional action, meaning that the emergency declaration will stand — provided, that is, that the usual gang of anti-declaration progressives and open-borders advocates don't find a conveniently activist judge to declare the declaration a violation of the law or the Constitution. Or find that it's an impermissible exercise of power, or that it hides hidden racist-xenophobic motives, or maybe that they just don't like it and therefore order an injunction despite the fact that what we have here is fundamentally a dispute between the political branches over exactly what differing individuals consider an "emergency". This is an area in which the supposedly non-political judicial branch should fear to tread, but we crossed that Rubicon and entered the era of governmental rule by jurists a long time ago.

It was a bitter pill for folks like me to see Republicans line up to defeat the president on a matter so important, something that so fundamentally defines our nation's sovereignty, or loss thereof, because when you lose control of your border, you lose control of your country and therefore of your destiny and that of your progeny.

That's one of the disturbing things about the so-called "conservative" movement, whose banner Republicans purport to fly. It's chock-a-block full of people who for various reasons oppose immigration control and, at least on this one issue, entertain ideas that very closely mirror, by end-result if not motive, those of open-borders advocates.

Making my point stronger is this: In the last Congress, despite a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, no significant immigration control or enforcement legislation of any kind was enacted. Why? Because under the arcane rules of the Senate it takes 60 votes, not a simple majority, to see a bill pass that chamber (presuming it also passed the House) and be presented for enactment into law by presidential signature.

In other words, these 12 Senate Republicans had no problem joining the minority Democrats to make up that 60-vote margin to try to defeat the president's immigration emergency declaration. And Senate Republicans have never been able to either persuade enough Democrats to join them in meaningful immigration control measures or, alternately, on their own kill the filibuster and cloture rules that make this anti-democratic (small "d" there) 60-vote rule a requirement.

I was curious about the immigration views of the 12, so I went to NumbersUSA, an organization that issues "score cards" to all representatives and senators based on their immigration voting records. Here's what I found:

Republican Senators Voting
Against Emergency Declaration
(in alphabetical order)
Immigration Score Card Grade
Assigned by Numbers USA
  Recent Career
Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) F- C
Sen. Roy Blunt (Missouri) F- B+
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) F- D+
Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) A+ B+
Sen. Jerry Moran (Kansas) F- A-
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) F- D
Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky) A+ B+
Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) F- B
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) F- F-
Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida) A+ C-
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) A+ B
Sen. Roger Wicker (Mississippi) D B+

The results of the table aren't really much of a surprise: For the most part, these senators all have abysmal records where immigration control measures are concerned. I am surprised, though, by the four senators described as having A+ grades on recent voting records.

While I respect NumbersUSA, I cannot credit the recent A+ (nor even the career C-) assigned to Marco Rubio who, where immigration is concerned, appears to change his principles as quickly as he changes his shirts. Remember his ardent support for the mass amnesty of the infamous "Gang of Eight" legislation? Rubio was, in fact, one of the “gang”, and I've seen nothing substantive change in recent years other than a kind of faux contrition after being beaten so badly during his failed presidential run, and nearly losing his Senate seat in his re-run bid, all because of his immigration views.

Toomey, too, was soft on the Gang of Eight legislation. Although in the end he voted against it, he wavered so significantly on the matter that he was targeted as part of a select group of potential deciding votes, and as recently as November 2017, endorsed a broad-based amnesty for alien "Dreamers" and DACA recipients, even as he admitted that doing so might lead to a new influx of illegal border-crossers.

That leaves the other two A+ recipients, Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Paul is idiosyncratic and hard to characterize. Though he has been known to flirt with organizations outspoken in their advocacy for amnesty and open-ended cheap labor programs, he voted against the Gang of Eight and has in the past acknowledged that the border is "lawless". Why, then, he fails to see the legitimate need for an emergency declaration is a puzzle. Sen. Lee has perhaps been the most consistent in opposing amnesties and endorsing border security. This makes his vote against the emergency declaration as enigmatic as Paul's.

So there you have it, the full round-up. Of the 12 senators, eight of them have recent track records that resulted in NumbersUSA assigning them failing grades when it comes to any kind of support for meaningful immigration enforcement, and at least two of the four who have A+ grades are, in fact, squishy in their support of immigration enforcement and against amnesties. No wonder they didn't support the emergency declaration. It's pretty clear that for at least 10 of the 12, their votes had little or nothing to do with high-minded constitutional "principles".