As Trump continues to hold out the threat of declaring a national emergency to abscond with the funds he wants to build his nonsensical wall, there’s one factor that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: As soon as Trump declares an emergency, Nancy Pelosi can force a vote over whether or not that emergency continues.
On Thursday evening, Donald Trump was “definite” about his intention to declare a national emergency, and through Friday, Senate-hating Senators such as Lindsey Graham have been cheering on the idea of government by fiat. However, through the day on Friday, there have been signs that some Republicans are actually passing the word that they’re not all that thrilled with this idea, and Trump’s attorneys have made it clear to him that an attempt to sidestep the constitutional roles of Congress and the executive will result in a swift trip to court.
And there’s another possibility. The National Emergency Act contains provisions that allow either the House or the Senate to produce a resolution to end an emergency declaration. In fact, the law sets a maximum period of six months before the Senate and House must vote on the continuation of an emergency—but it sets no minimum. If Donald Trump actually does declare a national emergency, Pelosi doesn’t have to wait six months. She doesn’t have to wait six minutes. She can immediately call a vote in the House ordering the end of that emergency.
That resolution would then move to the Senate. And it would have to get a vote.
Such a joint resolution passed by one House shall be referred to the appropriate committee of the other House and shall be reported out by such committee together within its recommendations within fifteen calendar days.
Whether Mitch McConnell likes it or not, Democrats could move a resolution to end the emergency out of the House. Then the clock would be running on Senate Republicans. They could hold it off for fifteen days if they wanted, but then they would have to put their names behind Trump’s emergency declaration. And then, no matter what happened in committee, it would get a vote before the full Senate.
[The resolution] shall thereupon become the pending business of such House and shall be voted upon within three calendar days after the day on which such resolution is reported, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays.
At most, there would be 18 days between when the resolution left the House and when it had to voted on by the full Senate.
Is it likely that such a resolution could actually end the emergency declaration? No. Because of the nature of the resolution, it would be subject to veto. And the chance that enough Republicans would line up in either chamber to provide a veto-proof margin seems slim. But … you never know. If this situation drags on, with Trump both crushing government services and stealing billions to satisfy a meaningless campaign slogan, even Republicans might feel ready to write an end to it when the bill came up for a vote. And even if it failed, it would remind Americans who is letting this happen: It’s not just Donald Trump. It’s Donald Trump and the Republicans.