Given the fact that the Republicans have controlled at least one house of Congress since he’s taken office, President Donald Trump hasn’t had to use his veto pen. That changed Friday after both houses passed legislation that sought to overturn his emergency declaration to fund a portion of the wall along the southern border.
“Today, I am vetoing this resolution,” Trump said from the Oval Office, according to The New York Times.
“Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it.”
While the bill had unsurprisingly passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but when it reached the GOP-controlled Senate, 12 Republicans defected and voted for the legislation — not enough to override a veto, mind you, but a 59-41 loss in a Senate with 53 Republicans isn’t exactly a minor story.
And while some of the Republican votes for the bill were the usual irritants for the Trump administration — Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah — there were other more surprising defections, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Given the circumstances, then, Friday was an important chance for the president to make the case that there was indeed a border crisis that necessitated invoking emergency measures.
To do so, Trump decided to invite a woman who lost her son to a drunken driver who was in the country illegally into the Oval Office while he issued the veto.
According to Arizona PBS, Mary Ann Mendoza is the founder of Angel Families, a group of survivors whose loved ones were killed by illegal immigrants.
“I knew this day would come, you know, that he would do something that proves to all of us that he is doing exactly what he promised the American people during his campaign,” Mendoza said Friday.
She also shared what happened to her son during the Oval Office session:
An angel mother thanks @realDonaldTrump for his hard stance on illegal immigration.
“We want to show the American people, and let you know, what is happening on our door steps. There is a way to prevent this. It is a national emergency.” pic.twitter.com/p7rR8j8VL3
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 15, 2019
“My son was killed in 2014 by a repeat illegal alien criminal who was allowed to stay in this country,” she said. “He was a police officer in Mesa, Arizona.
“Angel families come forward to tell their stories not because we’ve created a manufactured crisis, but because we want to tell the American people and share with you our heartache so that you know what is happening on our doorsteps, what’s happening to your neighbors, what’s happening to your fellow Americans. …
“And there is a way to prevent this, and it’s not by continually lying to you and telling you there isn’t a problem. There is a problem and it is a national emergency.”
It’s certainly an unconventional approach as these things go, and one that’s clearly meant to put pressure on recalcitrant Republicans.
It’s easy enough to cite precedent, to say that the national emergency clause can be used by a Democratic president to make changes to gun laws or on environmental issues, as a reason to vote against the national emergency.
However, the message that Mendoza’s presence in the Oval Office sent was clear: The border crisis is sui generis, a problem that’s festered for decades without political action.
Given the circumstances, Trump seems to be arguing, a national emergency is called for.
Whether or not that convinces Republicans — or Americans — is something that remains to be seen, but you can’t argue he didn’t make the case forcefully.