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profiles in courage
March 15, 2019

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) voted against Thursday's resolution to terminate President Trump's emergency declaration for the border, despite having written a Washington Post op-ed saying he would vote for it because he "cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress," adding later: "It's never a tough vote for me when I'm standing on principle." That flip-flop was more awkward because Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) favorably cited Tillis' op-ed before the vote.

"But none of those 'nay' votes seems quite as loud, or discordant, as the one cast by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who is fond of talking about the importance of Congress as a check on runaway executive power," says Eric Boehm at Reason. Twelve Republicans did vote yes, and the resolution easily passed 59-41, so "that really only makes Sasse's opposition more curious."

Sasse explained in a statement after the vote that while he thinks the law Trump used to declare an emergency to sidestep Congress "is overly broad" and in need of a fix, "at present Nancy Pelosi doesn't, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution. As a constitutional conservative, I believe that the [National Emergencies Act] currently on the books should be narrowed considerably."

"C'mon, this isn't a binary choice," Boehm said. "Voting to stop Trump's executive flexing doesn't prevent Congress from doing more to limit presidents' authority to use the NEA for politically motivated national emergencies that really aren't."

Many of Sasse's admirers were similarly disappointed. "If he refuses to take an actual material stand against perhaps the most egregious and norm-decimating action of Trump's entire presidency, then how is it anything more than grandstanding?" asked Tiana Lowe at The Washington Examiner. "Moral courage means nothing if it nukes your ability to actually do your job. Talk is cheap, but today it cost Sasse far too much." Peter Weber

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