Senator Tillis Backtracks on Promise to Oppose Trump National Emergency

Tyra Hilliard
Staff Writer

PC: United States Senate Photography

As of March 14, 2019, Senator Thom Tillis is now backing President Trump’s border wall emergency declaration, even after promising to oppose him.

The senator from North Carolina was counted to be among other Republican objectors to bring a resolution against Trump’s plan to use his power to override congress to obtain billions of dollars for his border wall.

“As a U.S. senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress. As a conservative, I cannot endorse a precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms,” wrote Tillis in a letter addressed to The Washington Post in February 2019.

Less than a month later, his thoughts on the subject have flipped entirely. On the Senate floor, Tillis announced his support for Trump and proceeded to encourage his colleagues to join him.  

“The concerns I’ve raised were never about what President Trump is trying to accomplish, but rather with setting a precedent that a future Democratic president would exploit to bypass Congress to implement policies well outside the mainstream,” said Tillis. He referenced his meeting with Mike Pence and senior White House staff and was assured that the administration will work to amend the National Emergencies Act to, “prevent a future left-wing president from misusing their authority.”

However, the resolution to end the president’s emergency declaration passed without his vote. Still, Trump is expected to veto it and congress does not expect to have the majority to counteract the rejection.

“It’s all very odd,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, about Tillis’ change of thoughts. “I’m not surprised at the vote at the end, but I’m surprised that he would come out and say he was going to vote against the president and then not do it.”

Up for re-election in 2020, Tillis will be a major target for Democrats as the aim to take control of the Senate. Originally, this vote was thought as a way for Tillis to put some ground between him and Trump.

“I think Tillis has been sort of nibbling around the edges of trying to demonstrate some independence from the president,” said Taylor.

Now, Tillis may have larger battles to fight.

“I suspect that maybe some people had signaled that behavior like this may lead to being primaried. He was in damage control,” said Taylor.

Many conservative activists planned for Tillis to switch sides, and are now concerned about the legislation coming from Tillis that would protect Robert Mueller’s investigation from White House interference.

Rep. Mark Walker told “The Hill” that he is considering a Senate bid in North Carolina which could mean running for Senator Richard Burr’s seat once he retires in 2022. He would also consider a primary challenge against Thom Tillis, but it isn’t “planned.”

Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker is also considering challenging Tillis.

“I’ve naturally assumed I was going to have a primary challenge,” said Tillis. “It usually happens nearly every election cycle in North Carolina.”

Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican Representative, stated that she has “no idea” if Tillis will encounter a primary challenge. When asked if Tillis’ switch up could hurt his chances she said, “That’s a decision Senator Tillis has to be concerned about. I don’t do polls.”

Democrats are already utilizing Thom Tillis’ take back against him.

“It’s crystal clear that Thom Tillis is more scared of a primary challenge than he is loyal to his principles or to North Carolinians. Tillis’s cynical political flip-flop is just another reason for North Carolinians to vote him out in 2020,” said Amelia Penniman, spokeswoman for the liberal research group American Bridge.

Inside Elections editor and publisher Nathan Gonzales says that Tillis has reason to worry in terms of 2020.

“He’s one of the half dozen most vulnerable senators in the country. I expect it to be close and competitive,” said Gonzales. “He needs voters who love the president and voters who are uncomfortable with the president to vote for him.”

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