Opposition to President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration over the supposed crisis at the southern border keeps growing. After reports circulated that the Trump administration was planning to seek to subsequently redirect disaster relief funds towards construction of the president’s long sought border wall blocking off Mexico, several prominent Democratic Senators banded together to introduce legislation that would keep that from happening.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all backed the proposal, called the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act. It serves as the Senate version of legislation that Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced in the House, where Democrats are in the majority so there’s a better chance of the measure actually passing, although the Republican-majority Senate may block it.
Warren, who’s announced her bid to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential election, blasted the Trump administration as essentially carrying on with mistreatment of disaster victims via even the suggestion they’d be using disaster relief funds for the wall.
‘The Trump Administration’s response to the 2017 natural disasters… was inhumane and continues to harm communities by delaying critical funding to help the recovery. Now President Trump is threatening to use disaster relief funds to pay for a useless campaign promise — absolutely not.’
Harris — who is also running for president — added:
‘The president simply cannot go around Congress to fund his ridiculous vanity project… This bill will stand up for Congress’ power of the purse and help California families affected by the recent natural disasters begin the process of recovery.’
Gillibrand, who the president has previously directly targeted and is also hoping to run against him come November 2020, was even more blunt, saying she was “disturbed that President Trump reportedly wants to steal disaster relief funding.”
The targeted money reportedly included some that had been set aside for both California and Puerto Rico — whose governor, Ricardo Rossello, threatened to sue the White House if they made that move. According to Warren’s office, the president already “reportedly instructed his administration, in September 2018, to avoid disbursing disaster-recovery funds to Puerto Rico.”
In the time since the Senators introduced their legislation, POLITICO has shared that “the administration expects to use $2.5 billion from a Pentagon drug prevention program and $600 million from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund,” in addition to some $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the emergency declaration-driven wall construction. The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has reportedly worked to collect information about the projects around the country that would be undercut by the seizure of those funds.
To be clear — there is no compelling reason for the White House to seek the money. Numbers from the current administration itself make clear that high crime rates are not associated with either the southern border or undocumented immigration, and the best response the Trump team has to that is to claim that there’s some vast unreported crime spree. Both the president and his longtime top adviser Stephen Miller have explicitly claimed as much.
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