Last Thursday, the Trump administration announced yet another seizure of billions of dollars of military funds for ongoing southern border wall construction, and opposition is growing among both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. The notification to Congress of Trump’s intent to seize a total of $3.8 billion more from the military came at the same time that the White House renewed Trump’s national emergency declaration covering the southern border situation for another year. There’s not and has never been a “national emergency” — Trump is just using the mechanism to get around legal demands for Congressional approval of government spending.
As House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) put it:
‘The President is obsessed with fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of our national security. This Administration has already stolen billions from the Department of Defense in order to begin building the President’s vanity wall and today they are doubling down on bad policy.’
The latest billions add on to the $6.1 billion that the Trump administration took from the Defense Department last year for the wall. The latest haul includes $1.4 billion that was originally meant for aircraft funding and $1.3 billion that had originally been designated for equipment for the National Guard and reserves. Previous batches of cash swiped from the Justice Department had been originally designated for even more acutely pressing issues, like military construction, including projects like the renovation of schools. Newsweek noted late last year that projects including “new schools, dining halls, a new fire station and a rescue station” on U.S. bases around the world would all see their funding disappear.
All Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee Democrats joined together for a joint statement condemning this latest funds theft that reads, in part:
‘This repeated maneuver to transfer funds once again is in contrast to the long-established processes involving consultation with the defense oversight committees of Congress on reprogrammings and transfers. Engaging in this scheme again is not only divisive, but also poisonous to the relationship we seek on national defense matters – which should be above this type of rancor and partisanship.’
They added, turning to the programs that would suffer because of the president’s continued egocentric priorities:
‘We are dismayed that the Department decided to target congressional increases to a vast number of critical programs, from aircraft to ships, including the perennially-underfunded Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and other Reserve Components.’
Even House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) joined in with criticism. He commented that he’d be working to try and stem the tide of the president’s funds seizures, explaining:
‘The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action. I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take.’
Trump has used hyped up border issues as fodder for his campaigning before, and heading into November, he seems ready to keep using those issues in the same way. There’s not likely to be any stemming of his behavior including these money grabs anytime soon.