Sen. Rob Portman showed his mettle Thursday when he stood with only 11 other Republican senators to vote against President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration. In a lengthy and eloquent floor statement laying out what was at stake constitutionally and practically, Portman, from the Cincinnati area, showed that when the stakes are high, he will choose principle over partisanship. Bravo.
He did so without rancor or hype, while offering a far better practical path forward to improved border security that answers both Trump’s concerns and urgent security needs.
Portman disarmed our prior criticism with his measured and sensible approach.
While our editorial board had earlier praised Portman’s ongoing attempts to find a border security compromise, we’d viewed with skepticism his failure to announce in advance how he’d vote on the measure disapproving Trump’s national emergency declaration.
Given the president’s uncompromising statements, we saw Portman’s continued search for compromise as a futile excuse for delay.
Well, we were wrong. Portman described Thursday how he’d worked almost until the Senate vote to persuade the White House about the worth of alternative paths. Alternative paths remain worthy.
On Friday, Trump tweeted his thanks to “all of the Great Republican Senators who bravely voted for Strong Border Security and the WALL,” then vetoed the disapproval resolution.
I’d like to thank all of the Great Republican Senators who bravely voted for Strong Border Security and the WALL. This will help stop Crime, Human Trafficking, and Drugs entering our Country. Watch, when you get back to your State, they will LOVE you more than ever before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
He should instead have heeded Portman’s sensible ideas to defuse the political vitriol while closing the book on this misuse of the National Emergencies Act that sets a troubling precedent for future presidents.
Portman reminded the Senate in his floor statement that in two prior presidential national emergencies in which Pentagon military construction funds were seized for other emergency ends, the decisions were not controversial, coming as they did during wartime when Congress recognized the need.
“Our founders drew a clear line on at least one thing," Portman said Thursday: “Congress, closest to the people, would have the power of the purse.”
Even after Trump’s veto, compromise remains possible.
In his floor statement, Portman laid out in detail how Trump could still assemble the $5.7 billion he’s said he needs for a wall without a national emergency declaration.
Portman stood up to defend the constitutional order when scores of his GOP colleagues, presumably fearful of White House (or voter) retribution, ducked. He did so while pointing a wise way forward to a real political compromise on border security. He was one of the adults in the room Thursday. Well done.
About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.
Have something to say about this topic?
* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.
* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments on this editorial to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at email@example.com.
* Use the comments to share your thoughts. Then, stay informed when readers reply to your comments by using the “Follow” option at the top of the comments, & look for updates via the small blue bell in the lower right as you look at more stories on cleveland.com.