It’s a tough time for President Donald Trump. Beset by investigations, allegations and rumors on all sides, two pivotal votes this week will also undermine the last base of support he retains in Congress—the Republican-majority Senate.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to denounce U.S. support of the Saudi Arabian-led Gulf coalition prosecuting the ongoing four-year war in Yemen, while on Thursday senators are set to vote down the president’s declaration of a national emergency over the southern border.
The votes will force Trump to use the first vetoes of his presidency—and twice in just one week. But wary Republican lawmakers are already trying to soothe the sting they are delivering to the commander-in-chief, who has in the past warned party faithful against breaking with the White House.
According to Politico, Trump spent time Wednesday speaking to Republican senators both in person and on the phone, requesting they back him but saying he understood if they did not.
For their part, Republicans are painting the votes as matters of constitutional authority rather than political. “Congress should declare war and Congress should spend the money,” said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. “I mean, those are two bedrock constitutional principles… It has nothing to do with the president, it has to do with the Constitution.”
Wednesday’s Senate rebuke of U.S. support for the war in Yemen passed 54 to 46, with seven Republicans joining the Democrats to vote against the president. The bill seeks to end American backing for the Saudi-led coalition within 30 days. The legislation was co-sponsored by independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, who is close to Trump and is expected to back him on Thursday’s border vote, explained the president “would prefer that we do our job and kill” the emergency disapproval resolution
But considering this seems unlikely, the senator said: “My hope is he realizes this has nothing to do with him or any way a slight on him. There’re not many ways to have a resolution of disapproval to be seen as anything other than a rebuke. But it’s not.”
Some Republicans are keeping quiet on their decisions over the national emergency vote, unwilling to step into the firing line until they have to. Politico reported that both Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney from Utah have refused to reveal their decisions.
But with the Republican Senate expected to rebuke the president, some party members are already downplaying its significance. “The message might be in the vote, but it might not be,” suggested Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama. “I think the president is pretty strong in a lot of ways. He’s probably gonna be here awhile.”