It also left Republican senators facing a painful choice: defy a president who commands passionate loyalty from conservative voters or acquiesce to what many lawmakers from both parties consider a dubious and unsafe expansion of presidential authority. Vote down the resolution of disapproval.
President Trump has rejected a GOP measure that would change the law on future emergency declarations, eliminating what appears to be the final last-ditch attempt to avoid the Senate publicly rebuking the President on his border wall declaration. Lee said the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which gives the president power to declare emergencies without Congress, allows the executive to act "like a king".
Paul said earlier this month that there were "at least 10" GOP senators prepared to oppose Trump's emergency.
"I said: 'Why don't you use this for impeachment?'" Trump said he asked Pelosi. Congress has never before voted to overturn a president's emergency declaration. The call was described by two officials who weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and described it on condition of anonymity.
Trump made clear he was not backing away from his border emergency.
"Lee said he talked to the president and the president's now not supportive of what he wants", said one GOP senator.
"If they really want to take a stand, they'll vote for the resolution tomorrow and then they'll override the president's veto", said Brown. Framing the vote that way seemed to be a message all but aimed directly at undecided GOP senators facing re-election races next year, of whom there are several.
Many Republicans have expressed unease over the national emergency declaration, noting the U.S. Constitution grants Congress authority over spending matters. It is about Border Security and the Wall (stopping Crime, Drugs etc.), not Constitutionality and Precedent. "We have a MAJOR NATIONAL EMERGENCY at our Border and the People of our Country know it very well!"
Even so, there was little doubt among GOP senators that Thursday's vote would turn out badly for the party.
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The disapproval resolution has already passed the House.
The White House argued Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly as a result of the expected economic benefits from a new free trade agreement negotiated between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
So far, four Republican senators have said they'll vote with Democrats to oppose Trump's emergency order.
The Utah lawmaker was the fifth Republican senator to say they back a measure passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives to terminate Trump's declaration.
Meanwhile, House Democrats have launched multiple investigations into Team Trump.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who has pushed the administration for days on its legal rationale for declaring the national emergency, said Tuesday that he has started getting the information from White House officials. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rand Paul of Kentucky - somewhere between seven and 15 Republicans remain conflicted on the disapproval resolution, according to a senior Republican aide familiar with the discussions. Tillis faces a potentially tough re-election fight next year.
However, the bill would need Trump's signature to become law, and Lee ostensibly hoped to exchange his support for the border declaration for Trump's promise to approve the bill limiting his powers.