But in the end, he joined with 11 other Republicans to reject Trump's declaration of an emergency to build a wall on the southern border in a 59-41 vote, forcing President Donald Trump to issue his first veto.
McConnell, however, said Trump was "operating within existing law" and that if senators did not like the powers provided to the president under the National Emergencies Act, "then they should amend it".
However, some Republicans have supported Mr Trump's decision and accused Democrats of ignoring the emergency at the border.
Tillis, who faces a potentially hard re-election race next year, cited talks with the White House that suggest Trump could be open to restricting presidential emergency powers in the future. The Democratic-led House passed the legislation last month, meaning Senate assent would send it to Trump. John Kennedy, R-La., recalling a favorite refrain of Monday Night Football announcers when a game was out of reach.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll in early March found that 52 percent of registered voters opposed the president's declaration, while 38 percent supported it. He felt compelled to take this route because his negotiations with Congress - which included a failed effort to leverage a disastrous government shutdown - extracted minimal concessions from Democrats on his promised "border wall".
Gardner's fellow senator from Colorado, Sen. Among Democrats, the opposition to the emergency declaration was even more strident.
Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) unexpectedly arrived as Trump was having dinner in the residence with family, according to two people familiar with the episode, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
"Today, I come to the floor to say that I do not intend to vote for the resolution of disapproval", the senator said, adding "The White House has been very gracious and I should say very patient given my initial position in working with us". John Cornyn, R-Texas, who advises GOP leaders. The move unlocked vast powers for the President and triggered a potential constitutional crisis over executive power.
Besides Lee, four have said they would vote no: Sens.
The Republican rebels were Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
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So anxious were some Trump allies, a trio crashed Trump's dinner in the White House residence Wednesday night with a warning. Sen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.
Any Republican hopes of a turnabout rested largely on a familiar phenomenon of the Trump administration - an unexpected change in mind, as he's done in congressional battles over health care and immigration.
At stake is almost $6 billion in federal funds that President Trump redirected in a February 15 emergency declaration. "This is a vote on border security, and it's a vote on drugs and trafficking and all of that".
Even before Thursday's vote, there were warnings that GOP senators resisting Trump could face political consequences.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump had repeatedly claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall.
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Incluso la funcionaria Nahle dijo que su colega de gabinete Arturo Herrera tendrá que rectificar sus declaraciones una vez que arribara a México.
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The White House did not respond to our inquiries seeking clarification of the president's tweets.
Gidley made the remark on "America's Newsroom" Thursday, just hours before the Senate will vote on a resolution to block the declaration.
But when the final votes were cast, Tillis was not one of the 12 Republicans joining the Democrats in rebuking the president - despite the fact that he had written a pointed op-ed for the Washington Post declaring that he would vote to oppose the declaration.
Lee's proposal says a presidential emergency would last 30 days unless Congress votes to extend it. That would have applied to future emergencies but not Trump's current order unless he sought to renew it next year.
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The strongest chance of blocking Trump's border emergency is likely several lawsuits filed by Democratic state attorneys general, environmental groups and others.