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House strips anti-border wall language from defense bill

House strips anti-border wall language from defense bill
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A provision in the annual defense policy bill that would have prevented Pentagon funds from being used for President Trump’s proposed border wall has officially been taken out after the House adopted a rule for debate of the bill.

The House voted 232-187 to approve the rule stripping anti-wall language from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a party-line vote.

The Rules Committee voted Tuesday night to include a so-called self-executing amendment in the rule, which is typically a procedural measure setting guidelines for how long debate can last, what amendments can come to the floor and other housekeeping issues.

That means the border wall provision was automatically stripped when the House adopted the rule, rather than having the House vote separately on removing that section of the NDAA. Republicans used the same tactic last year in stripping out a provision to require women to register for the draft.

“It is a legislative magic trick, a sneaky gimmick designed to disguise their actions,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said of using the rule to remove the provision. “Once again, Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans are doing President Trump’s dirty work. They want to make sure Trump can build his wall, but they’re also desperate to avoid a clean, up-or-down vote on this issue. They are hiding from American voters.”

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

The provision would have prohibited 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 amendment was adopted by voice vote after the committee chairman argued the panel should pass it to avoid wasting time debating issues the bill has no affect on.

The provision was seen as largely symbolic, since there have been no proposals to use Pentagon funding on the wall.

But Democrats argued it was necessary to preemptively block Trump from looking to Pentagon coffers when he cannot fulfill his promise to have Mexico pay for the wall.

“Just six months into this administration, it’s already abundantly clear that Mexico won’t pay for Trump’s stupid, dumb border wall,” Gallego said. “We must not allow precious resources to be robbed from our troops simply to score political points for Trump’s ego.”

Republicans defended their move to strip the language from the bill by saying the NDAA isn’t the proper avenue to address the wall. 

“This is a defense authorization bill,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) said. “This is not a wall authorization bill. … So what the Rules Committee has done is made it clear that we’re not going to deal with the wall one way or another in the National Defense Authorization Act. That’s not the proper place for it.”