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Alexander, Blackburn split on border emergency vote

Robert Houk • Updated Sep 25, 2019 at 9:04 PM

Tennessee’s two Republicans split on a resolution passed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday to end the national emergency at the southern border declared by President Donald Trump in February.

The resolution nullifies the president’s actions under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to give him power to shift spending from the military to fund construction of a border wall with Mexico. As with a similar resolution passed earlier by Congress, Trump is expected to veto the measure.

The state’s senior senator, Lamar Alexander, was among the 11 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for the resolution, which passed 54-41. Freshman Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who was elected in November with strong backing from Trump, voted against the resolution.

Trump’s first presidential veto came in March when he struck down a previous effort to derail his emergency declaration. Congress was unable to override that veto.

Alexander said his vote this week on the national emergency declaration was based on the same constitutional concerns he had about the Trump’s actions earlier this year. 

“At the time I cast this same vote six months ago, the president could have spent $5.7 billion already approved by Congress to build the 234 miles of border wall he requested in January without invoking a national emergency,” Alexander said in a statement Wednesday. “The U.S. Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority to spend tax dollars.”

The senator said he could not support the president’s emergency declaration and be “faithful” to the oath he swore as a senator to support the U.S. Constitution.

“Never before has a president asked for funding, Congress not provided it and the president then used the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to spend the money anyway,” Alexander said. “My vote today was for U.S. Constitution, not against the border wall.”

Alexander announced in December he would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2020. He served two-terms as Tennessee’s governor before beginning his tenure in the Senate in 2004.

Nashville trauma surgeon Manny Sethi and Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, are the Republicans who have announced bids for the Senate seat next year. James Mackler, a Nashville attorney, is currently the only Democrat running for the seat.

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