Democrats on high alert to block any funding for Trump’s border wall

Democrats are doing everything they can to block off any federal funding for President Trump’s border wall amid rising tensions over the crisis at the border.

In nearly half of the 12 annual appropriations bills House Democrats have ushered through committee, they have included specific language to block wall-related emergency powers, limit the use of flexible funds and oppose refilling accounts that could be used to build the barrier.

Their efforts come as anger within the Democratic Party is rising over the treatment of migrants detained at the border. Lawmakers who visited the border on Monday described conditions as “inhumane” and “abhorrent.”

{mosads}Discord between members of Congress and Customs and Border Protection officials were heightened further with news of a Facebook group where Border Patrol agents have posted derogatory and inflammatory content mocking both lawmakers and migrants.

The flare-up marks the latest standoff between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over how to address refugees and illegal immigration at the southern border.

Trump argues that building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be the best solution. In February, following a 35-day partial government shutdown, Congress refused to appropriate $5.7 billion for the wall, setting aside an agreed upon $1.4 billion for other barriers and fencing.

Trump, in turn, declared a national emergency, seeking to reprogram as much as $6.7 billion using emergency powers and other mechanisms.

Democrats want to make sure that none of those paths for funding a wall remain open to Trump in fiscal 2020, which begins Oct. 1.

“Diverting funds from critical projects to an unnecessary border wall is an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars and a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

{mossecondads}“In our fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills, House Democrats are using every tool at our disposal to block President Trump from shifting funds to a wall,” she added in Tuesday’s statement to The Hill.

Front and center in the fight is the homeland security appropriations bill, one of just two remaining spending measures that Democrats were unable to usher across the House floor in June.

The legislation does not provide any funding for the border wall, nor does it give money for additional Border Patrol agents or checkpoints. The bill also tackles Trump’s emergency declaration by rescinding $601 million in previous funds, equivalent to the amount Trump wanted to move over from the Treasury forfeiture fund to pay for the wall.

That would leave the Department of Homeland Security in the position of footing the bill for the wall with funds intended for procurement and improvement, eating into other programs.

Along the same line, the financial services spending bill, which funds the Treasury Department, includes provisions barring the use of the forfeiture fund, which collects civil asset forfeitures, from being used for border barriers.

The emergency powers Trump invoked would allow him to reallocate funds only from certain programs, largely the military. The Democratic-backed defense bill would block access to those funds for the purposes of constructing a wall.

But because so many other agencies take part in defense, Democrats have had to go further to ensure Trump won’t be able to access them. One of those extra steps included adding provisions to the energy and water bill dealing with the Civil Works Program and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, vowed not to backfill any military construction funds if Trump diverted them to the wall.

“Let me be clear. I do not intend to use Mil-Con dollars to fund this wall,” she said at a spring hearing. “And if the administration follows through and steals money from previously approved projects, the chairwoman’s mark will not provide funding for backfill.”

Democrats noted that Trump would be reprogramming funds intended for rebuilding and improving barracks for soldiers.

Any projects that lost funding because of diversions toward a wall would be canceled, Wasserman Shultz said.

“I am not joking,” she added.

Democrats are also relying on courts to help block the funds. Last week, they won an early victory when the U.S. District Court for Northern California said Trump could not use reprogrammed emergency funds for the wall.

The slew of provisions against wall funding will put congressional Republicans in a tough spot as negotiations over the spending bills move forward.

In order to avoid another shutdown, both parties will have to reach an agreement in order to fund the government in the new fiscal year. They’ll also need Trump to sign off on the deal.

While many Republicans support the wall, they are also wary of Trump’s use of executive powers to circumvent the will of Congress, worrying it would weaken the legislative body and empower future presidents.

In the meantime, escalating tensions at the border set the stage for challenging negotiations over the spending measures making their way through Congress.

Tags Border wall congressional funding Donald Trump Government shutdown Immigration Migrant shelters Nita Lowey

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