U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and retiring U.S. Pat Roberts differed Thursday on legislation overturning President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency warranting expenditure of billions of dollars on a border fence with Mexico without approval of Congress.
Moran, the Kansas Republican, said his support of the president's objective of improving border security didn't mean he was willing to violate an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Trump pledged to veto the legislation adopted 59-41, with Roberts siding with the president.
"I believe the use of emergency powers in this circumstance violates the Constitution," Moran said. "To find a loophole on this issue and to vote another way might be an easier course. But my gut, my intellect, my understanding of history tells me use of emergency powers is wrong. It can’t be an option to support something I believe wrong."
The U.S. House, led by Democrats, approved the resolution denouncing Trump's border-wall strategy. Moran joined 11 other Republicans in the GOP-led U.S. Senate who said they didn't believe the president was on solid ground with the executive order.
Roberts, the Kansas Republican not seeking re-election in 2020, had expressed concern a future president could use a similar declaration to impose policies Congress had refused to authorize. Roberts said he wasn't a fan of "government by fiat," but the issue of separation of powers was insufficient to convince him to break with Trump.
"I agree with the president's assessment that we have reached a crisis point at the border, and this is nothing new," Roberts said. "For many years, control of our southern border has been a fundamental failure of our first obligation to protect the national security of the United States.
Roberts said federal lawmakers ought to appropriate funding to address "the humanitarian crisis hurting the thousands of migrants who attempt to enter our country."
Moran said Kansans rightfully criticized President Barack Obama for abuse of executive orders, ignoring the laws and avoiding the requirements of negotiating a treaty when dealing with foreign powers.
"If the Constitution means one thing in the Obama administration and another in the Trump administration," Moran said, "the enduring value of the Constitution disappears and another generation of Americans will be less free."
In a statement, Moran said federal laws passed by Congress years ago allowing a president emergency powers was "flawed and needs to be repealed or amended."
He also said the federal government's control of who entered the country was vital in the fight against terrorism, illegal drugs and human trafficking.