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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump faces a test of strength — and a likely defeat — on 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 on 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.

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.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019