The US House of Representatives has voted to block President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration, a measure intended get him billions of extra dollars to build his border wall.
The House’s 245-182 vote to block Mr Trump’s national emergency declaration fell well below the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override his promised veto.
Top Republicans worked to keep defections as low as possible — 13 backed the Democrats’ resolution — underscoring their desire to avoid a tally suggesting that Mr Trump’s hold on politicians was weakening.
The vote now goes to the Republican-run Senate, where there were already enough defections to edge it to the cusp of passage.
Vice President Mike Pence used a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a dangerous crisis at the border, but there were no signs he would succeed.
“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is planning a vote within the next three weeks.
He even said Republicans remained uncertain about the legality of Mr Trump’s move, telling reporters, “We’re in the process of weighing that.”
Senate passage would force Mr Trump’s first veto, which the House vote demonstrated that Congress would surely fail to overturn.
But the showdown was forcing Republicans to cast uncomfortable votes pitting their support for a president wildly popular with Republican voters against fears that his expansive use of emergency powers would invite future Democratic presidents to do likewise for their own pet policies.
House Republicans who joined all voting Democrats to support the Democratic resolution included moderates from competitive districts such as Fred Upton of Michigan and libertarian-leaning conservatives such as Thomas Massie from Kentucky.
The White House wrote to politicians formally threatening to veto the legislation.
The letter said blocking the emergency declaration would “undermine the administration’s ability to respond effectively to the ongoing crisis at the Southern Border”.
Republicans said Democrats were driven by politics and a desire to oppose Mr Trump at every turn, and said Mr Trump had clear authority to declare an emergency to protect the country.
They also defended the president’s claims of a security crisis along the boundary with Mexico, which he has said is ravaged by drug smugglers, human traffickers and immigrants trying to sneak into the US illegally.
“We are at war on the Southern border with the drug cartels,” said Representative Pete Olson.
Democrats said the crisis is a fiction manufactured by Mr Trump to dance around Congress’ vote this month to provide less than 1.4 billion dollars (£1bn) for barrier construction. That was well below the 5.7 billion dollars (£4.3bn) Mr Trump demanded as he forced a record-setting 35-day federal shutdown.
“The president does not get to override Congress in a raucous temper tantrum over his inability to broker a deal” with politicians for more money, said Representative Hank Johnson
Representative Joaquin Castro, sponsor of the one-sentence measure blocking the declaration, called Mr Trump’s move “constitutional vandalism”.
Mr Trump used a 1976 law to declare a national emergency and ordered the shift of 3.6 billion dollars (£2.7bn) from military construction projects to wall building.
Citing other powers, he intends to shift another 3.1 billion dollars (£2.3bn) from Defence Department anti-drug efforts and a fund that collects seized assets.
The money would be used to build steel barriers up to 30 ft tall and other barriers and for “law enforcement efforts”, said a White House statement.