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GOP Senator Backs Trump’s National Emergency after Urging Colleagues to Oppose It in Recent Op-Ed

Senator Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. October 17, 2017. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Senator Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) reversed himself Thursday after vowing, in a Washington Post op-ed and a speech on the Senate floor, to support a resolution condemning President Trump’s national-emergency declaration.

Citing a vague promise from Vice President Mike Pence to work toward reforming the national-emergency statute, passed in 1976, to prevent future abuses, Tillis announced his reversal on the Senate floor just moments before voting against the resolution.

“I come to the floor to say I do not intend to vote for the resolution of disapproval. And here’s why: A lot has changed over the last three weeks,” Tillis said. “A discussion with the vice president, a number of senior administration officials, a lot of collaboration with my colleague from Utah [Senator Mike Lee] that’s a serious discussion about changing the National Emergencies Act in a way that will have Congress speak on emergency actions in the future.”

“As late as today the president makes a statement that he’s willing to work with us,” Tillis added.

Tillis, in a February 25 op-ed, lamented Trump’s decision to unilaterally appropriate funding for the construction of a border wall via a national-emergency declaration. After acknowledging that he shares Trump’s concerns about illegal immigration, Tillis argued the declaration would harm the constitutional order and invite executive overreach by future Democratic administrations.

“It is my responsibility to be a steward of the Article I branch, to preserve the separation of powers and to curb the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the past century. I stood by that principle during the Obama administration, and I stand by it now,” Tillis wrote.

The North Carolina lawmaker and former IBM executive went on to cast Republicans who immediately embraced the emergency declaration as hypocrites for abandoning the constitutional principles they trumpeted during President Obama’s tenure.

“Some prominent Republicans went so far as to proclaim that Obama was acting more like an ’emperor’ or ‘king’ than a president,” he wrote. “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.”

“These are the reasons I would vote in favor of the resolution disapproving of the president’s national-emergency declaration, if and when it comes before the Senate,” he later concluded.

Tillis — who previously bucked the president by supporting legislation that constrained his ability to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller — split with twelve Senate Republicans, who followed the advice outlined in his op-ed and supported the resolution.

Trump has said repeatedly that he would veto the resolution if and when it passed Congress, though either way his emergency declaration still faces numerous legal challenges.

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