WASHINGTON — In a stunning rebuke, a dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats on Thursday to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared so he could build his border wall with Mexico. The rejection capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways.
The 59-41 tally, following the Senate’s vote a day earlier to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, promised to force Trump into the first vetoes of his presidency. Trump had warned against both actions. Moments after Thursday’s vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: “VETO!”
Two years into the Trump era, a defecting dozen Republicans, pushed along by Democrats, showed a willingness to take that political risk. Twelve GOP senators, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the dissent over the emergency declaration order that would enable the president to seize for the wall billions of dollars Congress intended elsewhere.
“The Senate’s waking up a little bit to our responsibilities,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who said the chamber had become “a little lazy” as an equal branch of government. “I think the value of these last few weeks is to remind the Senate of our constitutional place.”
Many senators said the vote was not necessarily a rejection of the president or the wall, but protections against future presidents — namely a Democrat who might want to declare an emergency on climate change, gun control or any number of other issues.
“This is constitutional question, it’s a question about the balance of power that is core to our constitution,” Romney said. “This is not about the president,” he added. “The president can certainly express his views as he has and individual senators can express theirs.”
Thursday’s vote was the first direct challenge to the 1976 National Emergencies Act, just as Wednesday’s on Yemen was the first time Congress invoked the decades-old War Powers Act to try to rein in a president. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in halting U.S. backing for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the aftermath of the kingdom’s role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Today’s votes cap a week of something the American people haven’t seen enough of in the last two years,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “both parties in the United States Congress standing up to Donald Trump.”
The result is a role-reversal for Republicans who have been reluctant to take on Trump, bracing against his high-profile tweets and public attacks of reprimand. But now they are facing challenges from voters — in some states where senators face stiff elections — who are expecting more from Congress.
Centrist Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who’s among those most vulnerable in 2020, said she’s sure the president “will not be happy with my vote. But I’m a United States senator and I feel my job is to stand up for the Constitution, so let the chips fall where they may.”
Trump’s grip on the party, though, remains strong and the White House made it clear that Republicans resisting Trump could face political consequences. Ahead of the voting, Trump framed the issue as with-him-or-against-him on border security, a powerful argument with many.
“A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!” Trump tweeted. “Don’t vote with Pelosi!” he said in another, referring to the speaker of the House.
A White House official said Trump won’t forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.
“I don’t think anybody’s sending the president a message,” said Jim Risch of Idaho, the GOP chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He blamed the media for “reaching” to view every action “through the prism of the presidency, and that isn’t necessarily the way it works here.”
Trump brought on the challenge months ago when he all but dared Congress not to give him the $5.7 billion he was demanding to build the U.S.-Mexico wall or risk a federal government shutdown.
Congress declined and the result was the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Trump invoked the national emergency declaration last month, allowing him to try to tap some $3.6 billion for the wall by shuffling money from military projects, and that drew outrage from many lawmakers. Trump had campaigned for president promising Mexico would pay for the wall.
The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, and lawmakers seethed as they worried about losing money for military projects that had already been approved for bases at home and abroad. The Democratic-led House swiftly voted to terminate Trump’s order.
Trump did tweet ahead of the vote that he would be willing to consider legislation to adjust the 1976 law at some later time.
That was enough of a signal for GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, who faces a potentially tough re-election in North Carolina, to flip his vote, according to a person unauthorized to discuss the private thinking and granted anonymity.
TWIN FALLS — Jerome High School’s agriculture program has grown exponentially since 1992 when there were only 45 students. Now, there are more than 400.
This school year, Jerome Middle School hired a full-time agriculture teacher and offers classes for seventh- and eighth-graders.
The Jerome schools are just two of many across the Magic Valley — particularly in rural communities — that are either planning to expand their agriculture education programs or have already done so.
At Jerome High, agriculture program classes cover topics such as welding, small engines, woodworking, greenhouse, agriculture systems, floral design, food science, animal science, dairy science, small animal care, forestry and wildlife, and equine science. The high school has three agriculture teachers.
“It’s quite a huge umbrella,” said agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Tom Clifton. “We’re kind of a one-stop shop in Jerome for kids who are wanting hands-on, applicable electives.”
Clifton said he’d like to continue to expand the program and has talked with school administrators about it, but a lot depends on student numbers.
“We always have plans in the background for expanding,” he said.
Here’s how five more Magic Valley schools are planning to grow their agriculture programs:
One of the projects in the Cassia County School District’s $56.7 million bond — which went to voters Tuesday — was to purchase land and build a new agriculture science building at Declo High School. However, voters rejected the ballot measure.
Agriculture science teacher Jesse Miller, who’s in his 15th year at Declo High, used to have as many as 50 students in one class. He bought TV trays to use as extra desks.
Three years ago, the school hired a second agriculture teacher.
“That allowed for her to teach a different variety of courses,” Miller said, including advanced animal science and an elective agriculture class for eighth-graders.
Miller, who teaches mostly shop classes, expanded to offer more advanced welding opportunities. And he saw his class sizes drop a little. Students can also earn science credit for taking advanced agriculture classes.
Now, about 200 of Declo High’s approximately 300 students are taking agriculture classes.
“Over the years, more and more kids were drawn to the program,” Miller said.
To keep up with growing student numbers and interest in agriculture classes, Filer High School hired a second instructor last school year.
“We needed a second teacher to broaden and expand programs we have here,” agriculture science teacher Brian Wolf said.
It allowed the school to expand its class offerings. But now, it’s facing another challenge: a shortage of building space to accommodate students and supplies.
One project included in a $9.9 million Filer School District bond request during the Tuesday election was building a second career-technical building at the high school. Voters, though, rejected the ballot measure.
This school year, about 160 students at Filer High School are taking agriculture classes, with offerings in areas such as introduction to agriculture, plant science and animal science.
The school’s existing career-technical building isn’t big enough for all of the projects students do — or could do — and there’s not enough storage space.
“Right now, the biggest problem is that we’re running out of space,” Wolf said.
Also, the second agriculture teacher has a single classroom in the main school building — not in the career-technical building. It means she frequently walks back and forth between the main building and greenhouse.
Another issue with the second agriculture teacher’s classroom is it’s not set up as a lab, which students need for agriculture science classes, Wolf said.
The Kimberly School District plans to convert a couple of acres of land into an animal science lab and animal housing facility for student projects.
In June 2017, the Kimberly School District signed a purchase and sales agreement to buy 2.4 acres of agricultural land. The district spent $165,000 on the land, which is just south of the middle and high school campuses.
As demographics are changing and Kimberly is growing, it gives students who live in suburban neighborhoods the opportunity to experience raising an animal, such as for a Twin Falls County Fair project, said Joseph Maxwell, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Kimberly High School.
The land will be used for students raising livestock, Maxwell said, and for hands-on lessons and activities like livestock evaluations.
He said he hopes to allow the first couple of students to use the land starting in May. Eventually, he hopes 15 to 20 students at a time will use the land for their animal projects.
Agriculture teachers are working on gathering funds and writing grants to get the land ready for students to use and to get water and electrical service. Maxwell said they’d also like to install security fencing around the area.
He said he’d like to see everything in place within a year.
The school district paid for some of the property to be cleaned up, Maxwell said, and for removing a barn that was deemed unsafe for students.
Kimberly School District has about 100 students in FFA and a total of about 600 — including both the middle and high schools — who take agriculture classes. The high school has three agriculture teachers.
Hagerman High School doubled its agriculture offerings this school year by adding a food science program. ARTEC Regional Professional Technical Charter School is sponsoring the program and Kirt Martin, chef at Snake River Grill, was hired as the teacher.
Now, the programs collectively are referred to as the Hagerman Academy of Agriculture & Food Science.
The food science program covers both the science and processing of food. It also educates students on a topic that will affect them if they work for a food processing company in the future: hazard analysis and critical control point.
That involves teaching students about “anything a processor would do to keep the food safe,” said Daniel Knapp, agriculture science/technology teacher and FFA adviser. That includes keeping their hands clean and monitoring the temperature of the product.
As part of academy classes, students also process a lot of products, Knapp said, including fish, dairy and wild game.
The “farm-to-fork” movement is popular right now and there’s a greater emphasis on wanting to know where food comes from and for eating local foods, Knapp said.
“Traditional agriculture instruction probably stops when the product goes to market,” he said.
But now, the food science component is included in Hagerman classes, and also includes business and marketing food products, how to create food labels and figure out the nutritional content of food such as fat and protein.
Food science is a huge industry in the Magic Valley, Knapp said, adding there’s a huge demand for skilled workers.
A lot of high-level positions in the industry — those that require a college degree — are being filled by people who move in from out of state, Knapp said.
“As an educator, that’s unacceptable,” he said.
Hansen High School’s agriculture program plans to shift its focus of study next school year, offering classes tailored more toward animal science, agriculture teacher Kailee Davis said.
“This means that instead of being a cluster of a little bit of everything offered, we are going to be focused more on animals,” Davis wrote in an email to the Times-News. “We will still offer introduction classes to agriculture, plants and mechanics, but (we will go) more in depth with animal science.”
TWIN FALLS — A bill moving through the state Legislature would allow high school students to use state money to pay for workforce training programs like apprenticeships.
Senate Bill 1105 was introduced Feb. 11 and the full Senate approved it 35-0 on Feb. 25. On Wednesday, the House Education Committee passed the bill and now it’s slated to head to the full House.
It would allow students to use state Advanced Opportunities money to pay for career technical education workforce training — opportunities that aren’t attached to college credit. That could include “federally registered apprenticeships,” according to the bill draft.
Under the Senate bill, courses must be provided by an Idaho public technical college; lead to an industry-recognized certificate, license or degree; be for occupations regionally in demand; and classes can’t be already available at a student’s high school.
Brandi Turnipseed, executive director of workforce development at the College of Southern Idaho, said she sees the proposal as an opportunity to reach students who may not be planning to go to college.
Offerings allow students to gain a credential or job skills that lead to employment in high-wage, high-demand occupations, Turnipseed said. Apprenticeships, she said, are the best example of that and carry state or national certifications with them.
The change would also mean coordinating between CSI’s workforce training programs and CSI’s career/technical degree programs for students who want to further their education, she said.
CSI offers apprenticeships in areas such as electrician, plumbing, HVAC, maintenance and machine operator.
“We’re working on so many more right now,” Turnipseed said.
CSI doesn’t currently market its workforce training programs to high school students, she said, because the teens don’t have a funding mechanism to cover the cost.
Last year, however, CSI’s workforce development program did reach 54 high school students. Of those, 40 were through the certified nursing assistant program, which is considered a workforce training program but also carries college credit.
Shoshone School District Superintendent Rob Waite said he supports the state’s “go on” initiative to encourage more high schoolers to pursue higher education, but “the reality is not every student is going to Harvard.”
There are a lot of vocational-type jobs in the Magic Valley, Waite said. “I think if that’s where the jobs are, we in the education system should prepare our kids for that.”
From the Twin Falls School District’s perspective, post-secondary education isn’t just about students going on to a college or university, but also includes “workforce-oriented pathways,” district spokeswoman Eva Craner said. “There’s not always opportunities at the high school level for students to get that kind of training.”
The proposal would open up more options for students interested in very specific career pathways, Craner said, and allow them to “get some of it under their belt as high schoolers.”
Proposed legislation would provide interesting opportunities for CSI’s workforce training programs, said Jonathan Lord, associate dean of early college at CSI.
It could mean offering new courses or redesigning existing ones, he said. But if the proposed legislation becomes a reality, “I don’t know that it will get a lot more students on our campus right away.”
Todd Schwarz, executive vice president at CSI, testified in favor of the Senate Bill before the Senate Education Committee.
Through the state’s Advanced Opportunities program, every public school student can receive up to $4,125 to use from seventh through 12th grades to pay for college-level classes.
In particular, dual credit classes — where high schoolers earn high school and college credit simultaneously — are gaining popularity. Those include in career/technical education fields, with opportunities on the CSI campus and at high schools. More than 50 percent of the student headcount at CSI is now made up of dual credit students.
In Shoshone — which has about 500 students in kindergarten through 12th grades — school employees and the school board have spent a lot of time looking into how to prepare students for the types of jobs here in the Magic Valley and Idaho.
“I’m all for anything that gets us toward vocational programs and training,” Waite said.
Shoshone wants to add more vocational programs, but doesn’t have the building space right now to make that happen, he said.
For the last two years, Shoshone has had one student annually go through the electrician apprenticeship program at CSI.
“That’s a really good program,” Waite said. “Our kids are enjoying it and they’re on their way to becoming an electrician.”
If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.
BOISE — Two closely watched gun-related bills passed the Idaho House of Representatives on Thursday, following lengthy and impassioned debate from lawmakers.
One of the bills, from Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, would let 18- to 21-year-olds carry a concealed handgun without a permit within city limits; the other, from Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, would restrict access to firearms for certain convicted sex offenders.
Zito’s bill passed 53-14-3 along party lines, with all south-central Idaho Republicans voting to pass the bill and Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum, voting against. The vote for Wintrow’s bill was closer — 37-31-2 —with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Supporters of the concealed carry bill pointed out that Idahoans between the ages of 18 and 21 are already allowed to conceal a handgun outside city limits, and argued that teenagers living in urban areas are just as capable of learning to handle a gun responsibly as teenagers in rural areas. Critics of the bill, including House Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding of Boise, said they worried young people whose brains are still developing might impulsively use their concealed firearm in a fight, particularly if alcohol is added to the equation.
“I don’t think that this is an end-of-the-world, sky-is-falling piece of legislation,” Erpelding said. “But I just want to point out that from what I’ve heard from my colleagues...you don’t like it when I come into your rural communities and tell you what to do. It’s a little hard sometimes for those of us who represent cities to have rural folks come in and tell us what to do.”
Zito and other supporters of the bill said they trusted 18-year-olds not to use their weapons irresponsibly. “We are by nature a responsible citizenry,” Zito said. “I have faith in the citizens of our state and our citizens between 18 and 21 years old. They’re not going to go out and do stupid stuff.”
Wintrow’s bill generated equally lengthy, at times heated, debate. Current law restricts firearm access for people convicted of sexual battery of a child under 16 but does not restrict access for those convicted of sexual battery of a child 16 or 17 years old when the perpetrator is at least five years older. Wintrow’s bill would change that, with exceptions for certain crimes, such as taking indecent photos of a 16- or 17-year-old.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk in this body about personal responsibility and how we do things in Idaho,” Wintrow said. “I do think it is the personal responsibility to know the age of anyone we have sexual contact with, and I will never apologize for that. If we can’t trust their judgment here, why would we trust them with a deadly weapon?”
The bill was criticized on the floor by several female Republican lawmakers, including Zito and Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, who expressed concern over how the bill could impact the convicted sex offenders affected.
“These days I see girls who I think are 25 and they’re 14 or 15,” Boyle said. “Parents are not paying much attention to the way girls are dressed or the makeup they put on. Today we are putting everything on the males in society.”
Zito similarly said she worried about the “unintended consequences” for young men, adding that sometimes underage girls go to bars with fake IDs.
Two Republican male lawmakers spoke in support of the bill: Rep. Greg Chaney of Caldwell and Rep. Lance Clow of Twin Falls.
“These are convicted child molesters,” Chaney said. “As far as I’m concerned, they should feel lucky if they’re even walking around free.”
Clow pointed out that a person can have their access to firearms restricted for threatening a state official.
“So I had to decide, is a felony threat against me equal to the sexual battery of a minor child 16 or 17 years old?” Clow said. “I’d say that sexual battery is a heinous type of offense and I cannot see why we would not put that on the list.”
Among south-central Idaho lawmakers, those who voted in favor of Wintrow’s bill were: Clow, Davis, Toone, Rep. Linda Wright Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Twin Falls, Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Twin Falls, and Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley.
Zito and Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, voted against the bill.
Both bills will now go to the Senate.