U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Thursday voted against a Democratic resolution seeking to halt President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to secure funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. His vote ended weeks of speculation and signaled another step closer to Trump ahead of the Republican senator’s 2020 re-election bid.
“There is a crisis at the border and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have prevented a solution,” Gardner said in a written statement. “As a result, the President has declared a national immigration emergency, legal authority which he clearly has under the 1976 law, a law invoked 56 times by every previous president since Jimmy Carter.”
Gardner had refused to take a public position on the declaration, saying repeatedly — and as recently as last week when asked by The Colorado Sun — that he was reviewing the legal authority Trump had to issue the declaration. “We’re looking into it,” Gardner said earlier this month about his vote. “We’re looking into the law. We’re talking to Coloradans, we’re talking about it.”
But in an interview with Colorado Public Radio Gardner said he lobbied the president against declaring an emergency, saying he told Trump “I think Congress needs to do its job.”
Trump’s declaration, seen by Democrats as an end run around Congress, taps military money to pay for the wall. Specifically, those funds were set to go to construction projects.
Colorado has a host of military installations, including Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora and several more in the Colorado Springs area, including the Army’s Fort Carson.
A spokesman for Gardner said the senator received a commitment from the Trump administration that no 2019 fiscal year money would be repurposed from Colorado’s military installations.
Gardner’s vote has been the subject of national speculation for weeks given the difficult 2020 re-election he faces in Colorado and the state’s increasingly Democratic and moderate electorate. That being said, Gardner endorsed Trump’s re-election campaign, a move signaling he wants to fend off a primary challenger and secure the GOP base.
Trump wants to use his declaration to steer $3.6 billion more to border barriers than lawmakers approved. He had warned Republicans to stick with him on the vote. He said doing otherwise would be siding with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Adding to the mix: Vice President Mike Pence has been pressuring GOP senators to support the president’s emergency declaration, CNN reported. Nevertheless, a significant number still defected.
Gardner based his vote Thursday on the need to protect the nation’s southern border, in addition to his belief that Trump had the legal authority to issue the emergency order.
“Between October and February, border patrol apprehensions were up nearly 100 percent and since 2012, border patrol methamphetamine seizures are up 280 percent,” Gardner’s statement said. “It should never have come to this, but in the absence of Congressional action, the president did what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer refused to do.”
Democrats immediately blasted Gardner’s vote. The Colorado Republican Party urged its members to call and thank him.
U.S. Sen Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who is inching toward a 2020 presidential bid, voted for the resolution after making an impassioned speech urging other senators to follow his lead.
“We may never get another vote like this around here,” Bennet said. “This is going to be the time that each of us is going to decide whether we’re going to act to preserve these institutions for the next generation or whether we’re going to continue to degrade them in our mindless partisanship, and in this case, to somehow fulfill a promise the president never could keep. That would be a shameful day in the United States Senate.”
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, has sued Trump to block the emergency declaration on the grounds that it would impact the state’s military installations.
It is unlikely there are enough votes to override Trump’s expected veto.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Colorado Sun contributor Mark Matthews contributed to this report.