SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's two senators were among a dozen Republicans voting to buck President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency for funds to build a wall on the southern border.
Both Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Mitt Romney voted for the Democratic measure to disapprove Trump's order, which passed 59-41. The House previously passed the resolution.
Lee in a Senate floor speech blamed Congress for "voluntarily" relinquishing its legislative power to the White House.
"This is not about the president. This is not about my disagreement with or disapproval of the president or his approach to border security or his approach to build a barrier along our southern border. I think all those things need to happen,” Lee, R-Utah, said.
"But this law, Mr. President, is wrong. It’s not President Trump's fault. It Congress'."
After weeks of holding his decision close to the vest, Romney, R-Utah, said early Thursday's that he would vote for the resolution to disapprove the emergency declaration.
"This is a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core. For the executive branch to override a law passed by Congress would make it the ultimate power rather than a balancing power," Romney said in a statement.
Trump has his veto pen ready.
"A big National Emergency vote today by The United States Senate on Border Security & the Wall (which is already under major construction). I am prepared to veto, if necessary. The Southern Border is a National Security and Humanitarian Nightmare, but it can be easily fixed!" he tweeted.
Romney said his vote is not a vote against border security.
"In fact, I agree that a physical barrier is urgently needed to help ease the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and the administration already has $4.5 billion available within existing authority to fund a barrier — even without an emergency declaration," he said.
Romney said he is "seriously concerned" that overreach by the executive branch is an invitation to further expansion and abuse by future presidents.
"We experienced a similar erosion of congressional authority with President Obama’s unilateral immigration orders, which I strenuously opposed," he said. "In the case before us now, where Congress has enacted specific policy, to consent to an emergency declaration would be both inconsistent with my beliefs and contrary to my oath to defend the Constitution.”
Lee said Wednesday that he would vote to reverse the emergency declaration after he didn't see a path forward for his own bill to reclaim legislative powers for Congress from the executive branch. Trump told Lee in a phone call Wednesday that he would not support his bill.
In his floor speech, Lee referenced a U.S. Supreme Court case that his late father and former U.S. Solicitor General Rex E. Lee, argued that led Congress to remove legislative veto provisions from hundreds of laws and replace them with resolutions of disapproval.
"If he were here today, I would perhaps half jokingly acknowledge that maybe he’s in some ways to blame for this," Lee said.
Trump put out several tweets ahead of Thursday's vote.
"A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!" he tweeted.
In a tweet earlier Thursday, the president said, "If, at a later date, Congress wants to update the law, I will support those efforts, but today’s issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don’t vote with Pelosi!"