Mr. Cruz initiated the meeting, in hopes of selling Mr. Trump on his own rewrite of the emergency declaration law that would restrict funding from military sources, according to a senior Republican aide with direct knowledge of the proposal. Mr. Trump summoned a lawyer from the White House Counsel’s Office, who said the plan would strip the president of powers he currently possesses. “No way,” an annoyed Mr. Trump told the trio, according to a person with knowledge of the exchange.
“I said there’s some people want to talk to you, they have some concerns about the emergency declaration,” Mr. Graham said. “Hell, if I was him, I would have told us to go to hell.”
All three men sided with Mr. Trump and voted against the resolution.
Mr. Graham, along with other lawmakers supportive of the declaration, argued that the president’s declaration was within the jurisdiction of the National Emergencies Act, and was needed to address what the president and his supporters deem to be a crisis at the southwestern border.
“I take Congress’s prerogative over appropriations extremely seriously,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. “But,” he added, “the Senate should not be in the business of misusing specific resolutions to express opinions on more general matters.” Mr. Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, told an associate that he felt let down by lackluster support for him among Republican leadership.
Mr. McConnell, who strongly advised Mr. Trump against declaring the emergency declaration, made a point of not pressuring senators to support Mr. Trump, urging them to vote according to their consciences and political interests, according to seven Republican aides and lawmakers.
At a party lunch in early March, the leader canvassed his conference and found virtually no support for the president’s position — then he informed senators running for re-election that they were free to vote “the politics” if they chose, according to a person in attendance.
He also repeatedly told senators that he had warned against Mr. Trump against enacting the emergency declaration in the first place.