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Trump moving forward to divert $3.6B from military projects for border wall

The Trump administration is moving forward with its plan to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects, notifying congressional leaders and lawmakers whose states will be impacted by the shuffle. 
 
Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe paradox of US-India relations Overnight Defense: Trump-era land mine policy unchanged amid review | Biden spending outline coming Friday | First lady sets priorities for relaunched military families initiative Biden to keep Trump-era land mine policy in place during review MORE called congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-N.Y.), on Tuesday to detail the decision to reprogram the money away from military construction projects and to the border.
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Schumer, who has projects in his home state that will be impacted, panned the decision as a "slap in the face" to members of the military.
 
 
"The president is trying to usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military. Robbing the Defense Department of much-needed funds is an affront to our service members and Congress will strongly oppose any funds for new wall construction," he added.
 
Pelosi told House Democrats on a caucuswide conference call on Tuesday that Esper also informed her of the move earlier in the day, according to a call participant.
 
"Canceling military construction projects at home and abroad will undermine our national security and the quality of life and morale of our troops, making America less secure," Pelosi said later in a public statement.
 
"The House will continue to fight this unacceptable and deeply dangerous decision in the Courts, in the Congress and in the court of public opinion, and honor our oath to protect the Constitution," she added.
 
Pentagon officials on Tuesday also confirmed that Esper approved $3.6 billion in Defense Department dollars to build 175 miles of wall on the U.S.- Mexico border, with Congress being briefed on the construction projects that will be affected by the order.
 
The notification to congressional leadership comes following Trump's declaration of a national emergency earlier this year to access more money for the border wall after Congress passed a funding bill that included only $1.35 billion for the border.
 
Republicans bristled over Trump's decision to declare the national emergency to get wall funding, but Congress was unable to override Trump's veto of a resolution to nix the declaration. Democrats have pledged to force another vote this fall.
 
As part of the declaration, Trump announced that he would reshuffle $3.6 billion from military construction projects. Republicans are promising to "back fill" the money in the upcoming government funding bills, though that requires cooperation from Democrats.
 
In the meantime, roughly 127 military construction projects are being put on hold, half of which are overseas and half of which are planned U.S. projects, according to the Pentagon. 

Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker, who also spoke to reporters, said construction is expected to begin in about 135 days.

Officials also said that the additional miles of wall to be built are expected to diminish the number of U.S. troops deployed to the border but could not give an estimate as to how many.
 
Democrats immediately balked at the Pentagon's decision to formally move forward with the reprogramming. 
 
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, knocked the administration on Tuesday, saying there was "no credible reason" for diverting the funding.
 
“There should be broad, bipartisan opposition to misusing defense dollars in this manner in both Congress and the courts," he added.
 
"The President is robbing the men and women of our armed services of funds meant for critical construction projects that are necessary to serve our troops, support our allies, deter our adversaries, and care for our military families — all to build a wall that will do nothing to solve the humanitarian crisis at our Southwest border or protect the American people," Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Senate GOP opens door to earmarks MORE (D-Vt.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Chicago Police Union head calls Adam Toledo shooting 'justified,' says 'officer's actions actually heroic' Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (D-Ill.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Georgia law makes it a crime to give food, water to people waiting to vote Senate Democrats reintroduce bill to create financial transaction tax MORE (D-Hawaii) said in a joint statement. 
 
Leahy is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, while Durbin is the top Democrat on the Defense subcommittee and Schatz is the top Democrat on the military construction subcommittee. 
 
Schatz added in a subsequent tweet that "every service member, family member, and veteran should look at the list of projects he is de-funding and know that Trump thinks a wall is more important." 
 
Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent Esper a letter on Tuesday requesting more information on the impacted projects, including how they were selected. 
 
"We ... expect a full justification of how the decision to cancel was made for each project selected and why a border wall is more important to our national security and the wellbeing of our service members and their families than these projects," 10 Democrats on the panel wrote in their letter. 
 
Cristina Marcos and Ellen Mitchell contributed.