Even with his signature policy proposal at stake, even with his own party pushing back more than ever before, even with the first veto of his presidency on the table, President Donald Trump just couldn’t be bothered to try to persuade Congress to back him.
The result was a 59–41 vote to block his declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. It’s the biggest rebellion among Republican senators against the president, with 12 Republicans joining every Democrat to halt the declaration, and it comes one day after the previous biggest rebellion—a vote to defund the Saudi war in Yemen, which drew seven Republicans.
The direct effects of the Senate rebuke are relatively minimal, because it’s mostly symbolic. Trump has vowed to veto the resolution of disapproval, and there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to override him. Since the law allows the president to declare an emergency and Congress can block it only after the fact, the declaration will remain in place. The more consequential battle is likely to come in the courts.
But beyond the symbolism of this vote, Trump’s nearly complete disengagement with Congress connects the emergency declaration to his broader legislative approach. Despite the stakes of the vote, Trump put little effort into trying to persuade senators that they should stick with him. The president tweeted a few times about it, but, then again, he tweets about a lot of things. He hosted a White House event on drug trafficking at the border on Wednesday, but no senators were invited. Trump has had plenty of distractions—collapsed negotiations with North Korea, visits from Czech and Irish leaders, a visit to victims of a tornado in Alabama, the ongoing Michael Cohen saga, and Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearings—but he also spent the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, getting in some rounds of golf.