President Donald Trump likely to face embarrassing blow

President Donald Trump likely to face embarrassing blow
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WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump faces a test of strength -- and a likely defeat -- Thursday in the US Senate, where a simmering revolt in Republican ranks could help sink his border emergency declaration.

A handful of the party's members are saying they will join Democrats to vote for a measure that would nullify the emergency declared by the president in February as a way to secure more funding to construct a protective wall on the US-Mexico border.

Trump insists the move allows him to skirt Congress and re-purpose billions of dollars in other government funds, including money that was ear-marked to build or renovate military facilities.

But Democrats and some Republicans have cried foul. They argue that Congress is constitutionally appointed to control the government's purse strings -- and declaring an emergency to seize more money is a blatant abuse of executive authority.

Republicans control the Senate, 53 to 47, but at least six Republicans have now stated they will support the resolution of disapproval, giving Democrats the numbers they need to squeak it through.

Senator Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential candidate, said he will back the measure, calling it "a vote for the constitution and for the balance of power that is at its core."

A group of Republicans sought to limit defections by cutting a deal Wednesday with the president to limit his powers on emergency declarations, but Trump refused.

He set the stage for the showdown by using his now-familiar strong-arm tactics, warning Republicans not to rebuke him on the emergency.

"Don't vote with Pelosi!" he boomed on Twitter early Thursday, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whose Democratic-led chamber has already approved the resolution.

Despite the fist-shaking tweet, Trump was due to arrive at the US Capitol for a Friends of Ireland lunch hosted by Pelosi and featuring Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

- 'Judgment of history' -

If the measure does pass the Senate and go to Trump, he said he would block it from becoming law by issuing the first veto of his presidency.

"I am prepared to veto, if necessary," he posted. "The Southern Border is a National Security and Humanitarian Nightmare, but it can be easily fixed!"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed support for Trump's move, describing a border security system "at the breaking point" as he sought to rally his troops behind the president on the upcoming vote.

"The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real," McConnell said.

The but the chamber's top Democrat couched it as a dangerous power grab by an unrestrained president acting out of "pique."

"It's our job, here in Congress, to limit executive overreach, to defend our core powers" of controlling how federal dollars are spent, Senator Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.

"This is not an everyday moment," he added. "The judgment of history weighs on this vote."

The White House meanwhile laid out an ambitious 2020 budget proposal Monday which contains $8.6 billion in new wall funding, considerably above the $5.7 billion Trump sought for this year.

It is highly unlikely that lawmakers will go along with it.

Congress already rejected the $5.7 billion, providing just $1.375 billion for construction of 55 miles (90 kilometers) of barriers along the border in Texas.

The vote could end up as the second embarrassing bipartisan rebuke of Trump in as many days.

On Wednesday the Senate voted to end US military support for the bloody Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, despite warning from the White House that doing so would harm Washington's ties with Riyadh and cripple efforts to counter extremism in the region.

The House is expected to clear the measure and send it to Trump. - APP/AFP

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