One thing was clear when the Senate voted Thursday to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border: the word “rebuke” was going to get used a lot.
Trump has said he will veto the legislation, and neither house of Congress came close to having the votes to override the veto.
It didn’t matter that the White House halfheartedly tried to lobby senators to oppose the measure of disapproval. It didn’t even matter that senators told reporters this was a one-off in terms of opposing the president – “an institutional concern about separation of powers and Congress’ prerogatives more than anything else,” as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said.
What mattered were the rebukes.
The Senate resolution to overturn the declaration of a national emergency saw “12 Republicans joining all the Democrats to deliver a rare bipartisan rebuke of the president,” wrote Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner of the Washington Post.
“Thursday brought a fairly big rebuke,” wrote David Jackson and Deirdre Shesgreen of USA Today.
It was a “harsh rebuke of the president’s attempt to go around Congress to fund a border wall,” wrote Politico.
There were, in fact, “a remarkable series of bipartisan rebukes to the president,” wrote Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear of the New York Times under the headline, “Congress Has a Breaking Point. This Week, Trump Might Have Found It.”
They were referring to a resolution to end American military aid to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen and to another that urged the report from special counsel Robert Mueller be made public.
The Yemen vote and the border vote marked “back-to-back rebukes,” which, “in a normal White House, might send aides scrambling across the West Wing in fear of a growing backlash against Trump, particularly with the looming conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia,” wrote Paul Kane of the Washington Post under the headline, “Tillis’s reversal sums up state of Senate Republicans – few willing to cross Trump.”
Once the rebukes were out of the way, the stories centered on the long-term implications of these votes.
The vote represented a “crack in the GOP wall,” wrote Sarah Binder of the Post in “The Senate voted to block Trump’s national emergency declaration. Now what?”
Binder wrote that Democrats needed only four Republicans to break ranks for the disapproval measure to pass, and they got 12. “That’s barely over a fifth of the GOP conference,” she wrote. “But in a period of intensely polarized and competitive parties, if even a few party members defect, it reveals sharp differences with the president – and on the issue Trump considers most important to his reelection.”
This matters because “the public will notice the breakdown in elite GOP consensus, making it harder for the president to use the wall to rally Republicans to his side.”
But most of the senators who voted against Trump Thursday said they agree a wall is needed and that they would continue to support the president on almost every issue, but they objected to him spending money after Congress had voted to deny those funds.
“Both votes highlighted key splits form the president by a party that’s broadly supported him, even as he’s plunged the country into a devastating government shutdown, championed the rollback of crucial environmental protection and employed racist rhetoric to champion hardline immigration policies,” Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen wrote for Vox in “Senate Republicans see the national emergency vote as a one-time break with Trump.”
“This isn’t the first time Republicans have signaled opposition to Trump, but it is one of the rare instances when it hasn’t been purely symbolic.”