So much for that plan: On Tuesday, we learned that Vice President Mike Pence had been floating a face-saving compromise in order to stave off a Senate vote to end Donald Trump’s bizarre “national emergency” declaration at the southern border. Vote to support Trump’s national emergency declaration, Pence told wavering Republican senators, and Trump would in exchange sign a bill to rein in presidential emergency powers in the future.
The compromise in question, centered around a bill authored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, was a fairly transparent effort to finesse the situation by allowing Donald Trump to get away with this particular instance of emergency power overreach while attempting to shut down the ability of future (read: Democratic) presidents to use the same emergency powers in the future. Republicans have been alarmed not just by the Trump precedent of declaring an “emergency” over an invisible, demonstrably fictional crisis, but by the possibility of that precedent being used by future administrations to use emergency powers to fight climate change, gun violence, or other issues conservatives have fought bitterly to leave unaddressed. Mike Pence’s proposal sought to both validate Donald’s flagrant current abuse while attempting to close off the Constitution-dodging precedent it set.
That was the plan. According to Politico congressional reporter Burgess Everett, however, Donald Trump called Sen. Mike Lee at lunch Wednesday to explicitly tell him that he wouldn’t be agreeing to that deal. Talking Points Memo confirmed that conversation, citing an unnamed Republican senator as saying “Lee said he talked to the president and the president’s currently not supportive of what he wants.”
This marks yet another occasion in which Donald Trump has seemingly gone out of his way to shoot down negotiations by his own White House—and his own vice president. It wasn’t enough to let Pence know that Trump had soured on the deal, if indeed Pence ever told him about the proposal in the first place: Trump had to call the bill’s Republican author directly to make it clear that whatever nonsense Pence had been spouting was absolutely dead.
Now that’s an interesting White House dynamic. Did Pence go off on his own without consulting Trump on this one? Did Trump agree to it at first, then change his mind? Did Pence float the offer despite knowing Trump wouldn’t go along with it? The usual White House leaks may soon clear it up.