The issue is now before Senate, while Trump might use first veto as president
House Democrats have ignored a veto threat and passed legislation that would stymie President Donald Trump's bid for billions of extra dollars for a United States-Mexico border wall.
The House's 245-182 vote on Tuesday to block Trump's national emergency declaration fell well below the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override what would be the first veto of Trump's presidency. Thirteen Republican backed the Democrats' measure as top Republicans worked to keep defections as low as possible, wanting to avoid a tally suggesting that Trump's hold on lawmakers was weakening.
The issue is now before the Republican-run Senate. Vice-President Mike Pence used a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a crisis at the border, but there were no signs he had succeeded.
"I personally couldn't handicap the outcome at this point," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who plans a vote within the next three weeks.
The showdown was forcing Republicans to cast uncomfortable votes pitting their support for a president popular with GOP voters against fears that his use of emergency powers would invite future Democratic presidents to do likewise.
House Republicans who joined all voting Democrats to support the resolution included moderates from competitive districts such as Fred Upton of Michigan and libertarian-leaning conservatives like Thomas Massie from Kentucky.
The White House said blocking the declaration would "undermine the administration's ability to respond effectively to the ongoing crisis" at the border.
Republicans said Democrats were driven by politics and a desire to oppose Trump at every turn. They said Trump had authority to declare an emergency to protect the country and they defended his claims of a crisis.
"We are at war on the southern border with the drug cartels," said Representative Pete Olson.
Trump has asserted that barriers would stop drugs from Mexico from entering the US. In fact, government figures show that 90 percent of drugs intercepted from Mexico are caught at ports of entry, not remote areas where barriers would be constructed.
Democrats said Republicans repeatedly accused former president Barack Obama of flouting the Constitution, which gives Congress control over spending, but are ignoring Trump's effort to do the same.
"Is your oath of office to Donald Trump, or is your oath of office to the Constitution?" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans.
Trump's push for the wall reflected a continuation of the anti-immigrant views that helped fuel his election, some Democrats said.
"Since when do we call human beings in need a national emergency?" said Mexican-born Representative Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. "Is he running out of insults for people like me?"
Democrats said the crisis is a fiction manufactured by Trump to evade Congress' vote this month to provide less than $1.4 billion for barrier construction. That was well below the $5.7 billion Trump demanded as he forced a record-setting 35-day partial federal government shutdown.