A dozen Senate Republicans voted to end President Trump’s emergency declaration on Thursday. But those with the most to lose from Trump’s unpopularity stood by their man.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only one of the Senate Republicans who face potentially tough 2020 reelection races to break with Trump on the vote. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), David Perdue (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) all voted to protect his emergency declaration. All six members are viewed as potentially vulnerable to a Democratic challenger, with both Gardner and McSally facing arguably uphill battles to reelection.
Tillis’ vote was the most notable given his last-minute flop-flop. Just two weeks ago, he penned an op-ed arguing that “There is no intellectual honesty in now turning around and arguing that there’s an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach — that it’s acceptable for my party but not thy party.” But he reversed course in dramatic fashion on Thursday.
Democrats were quick to pounce on their shows of fealty to the president.
“The vote today reveals how self-interested and vulnerable Republican incumbents are even at this early stage of the cycle. When you care more about standing by the White House than standing up for your own state, you’ve lost your way. Senators like Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis and Martha McSally have given voters another reason to show them the door,” the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said in a statement.
Those votes could come back to haunt them. Trump isn’t especially popular in any of these senators’ states, and committing to absolute fealty with the president limits the members’ ability to win independent voters in 2020.
But Trump has shown he won’t let lawmakers get any room from him, regularly hammering any Republicans who dare cross him even if they’re in tough spots for reelection. That includes on this measure, a pure show vote that he will veto. Trump has spent weeks railing against Republicans, and capped off those attacks with a clear threat not to cross him on Thursday:
A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
These Republican senators may have hurt themselves with the vote — but they decided it’s a bigger risk to cross Trump.