Defense

House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall

The House on Tuesday rejected a Republican motion on replacing military construction funding President Trump is dipping into for his border wall as the chamber moved to officially start negotiations with the Senate on the annual defense policy bill.

The House voted 198-219, largely along party lines, against a Republican “motion to instruct” negotiators to support backfilling $3.6 billion in military construction funds. The vote followed the House agreeing by unanimous consent to start negotiations with the Senate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).{mosads}

The minority party typically offers motions to instruct in an attempt to message.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, argued the motion would “ensure that, as we continue to argue about border security and a whole variety of other issues, that our troops do not suffer as a result of that argument.”

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it was taking $3.6 billion from 127 military construction projects to build 175 miles of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in line with Trump’s emergency declaration at the beginning of the year.

The Senate’s version of the NDAA includes $3.6 billion to backfill what’s being used for the wall, but the House’s does not.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called the Republican motion “irrelevant” since the projects losing money are already authorized for five years.

“What this amounts to is a sense of Congress on whether or not we ought to allow a president to effectively steal $3.6 billion out of the Pentagon’s budget for his own personal policy desire that Congress has already said they shouldn’t,” he said.

While Tuesday’s votes were the first official movement toward House-Senate negotiations on the NDAA, lawmakers and staffers have been unofficially meeting since both chambers passed their bills earlier this summer.

The so-called “Big Four” — Smith, Thornberry, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) — also met Tuesday with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

“We discussed progress made along the priorities laid out in the National Defense Strategy, our current operational environment & commitment to continue working together on the FY20 NDAA,” Esper tweeted Tuesday. 

In addition to border wall issues, the House and Senate will have to find compromises on a number of thorny issues, including House-passed provisions to block military action against Iran, end U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, reverse Trump’s transgender military ban and ban Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties.

Tags Adam Smith Donald Trump Jack Reed Jim Inhofe Mac Thornberry Mark Esper
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