Republicans move to strike anti-border wall provision from defense bill

Republicans move to strike anti-border wall provision from defense bill
© Greg Nash

House Republicans moved Tuesday to strip a provision in the annual defense policy bill that would ban Pentagon funding from being used for President Trump’s proposed border wall.

The move angered Democrats, who argued Republicans were sneakily eliminating a provision was that included in the bill after a bipartisan vote in the House Armed Services Committee.

“You’re rewriting the bill now to take out a provision that was in the bill that ensured that no funding authorized in the bill will pay for President Trump’s wasteful border wall and the bipartisan language you’re removing was debated, amended and accepted by the Armed Services Committee on a voice vote,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee.

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On an 8-4 party line vote, the House Rules Committee adopted a rule for debate of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes a so-called “self-executing” amendment that strips the provision.

A separate vote to remove the self-executing amendment from the rule and another one to make it a separate amendment failed on 4-8 party line votes.

That means the provision will be stripped when the full House adopts the rule Wednesday, rather than having the House vote separately on removing that part of the bill. Republicans used the same tactic last year in stripping out a provision to require women to register for the draft.

The Rules Committee’s move comes the same day the House Appropriations Committee unveiled a bill that would provide $1.6 billion to begin construction of the wall.

At issue in the NDAA is a provision that was added as an amendment during the Armed Services Committee’s markup of the bill last month.

The provision would prohibit Pentagon funds from being used “to plan, develop, or construct any barriers, including walls or fences along the international border of the United States.”

The language that was adopted was introduced by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

The amendment was adopted by voice vote after committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) argued the committee shouldn’t waste time debating issues the bill has no affect on.

“There is nothing in this bill that has anything to do with a wall on the border,” Thornberry said at the time. “I kind of think we all just say, ‘Yup,’ and we go on, rather than spend the next hour talking about things that are not in the bill and not in the committee’s jurisdiction.”

On Tuesday, Slaughter knocked Republicans for taking the provision out of the bill without a separate debate on the House floor.

“We’re distraught by the way this done,” she said.

Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) shot back, saying, “I guess I should have called you.”

“Well, certainly there’s been a lot of buzz about it; it would be nice to know,” Slaughter responded.

In defending the Rules Committee’s move, Sessions argued the Armed Services Committee and the Pentagon do not have jurisdiction over the border wall, so it shouldn’t be in the bill.

Asked by Slaughter whether the White House asked him to remove the provision, Sessions said he was contacted by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) about his amendment to strike the language and then decided to include it in the rule.

“That was within the [Defense Department] bill,” he said, “and I don’t believe that [the Defense Department] has the authority, responsibility or jurisdiction to build or not build the wall.”