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House Armed Services chairman exploring options to stop Trump from taking $7.2B in DOD funds for wall

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he “absolutely” wants this year’s defense policy bill to address President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE’s reported plan to take another $7.2 billion from the Pentagon for his southern border wall, but acknowledged the difficulty of doing so.

Referencing the two-year budget agreement that said restrictions on transferring money have to be agreed to by the White House, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Bottom line A long overdue discussion on Pentagon spending MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters that “at the moment, it seems like we’re blocked by that reality.”

“But there’s bipartisan opposition to this, so we’ll explore that bipartisan opposition and see where we’re at,” Smith added.

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The Washington Post reported this week that Trump is planning to tap $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's counter-drug programs and $3.7 billion from military construction funding to use to build the border wall.

Responding to the report, Senate Democrats vowed Wednesday to force a third vote to end Trump's national emergency declaration, which is the authority he cites for transferring funds to the wall.

The additional $7.2 billion Trump plans to use for the wall is on top of the $2.5 billion in Pentagon counter-drug funds and $3.6 billion in military construction funds he tapped last year.

After Trump used Pentagon funds for the wall last year, Democrats included provisions in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have restricted the ability to transfer money between accounts, as well as a blanket ban on using Department of Defense (DOD) funds for the wall.

But those provisions were taken out of the bill during negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate, and the NDAA that was signed into law in December did not address the wall.

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Smith said Wednesday he does not view last year’s NDAA as a missed opportunity to block Trump from taking Pentagon funding for the wall because he doesn’t “think we had a chance in the first place.”

“The White House blocked it and wasn’t going to allow it, and the budget agreement had already been done by the time we got to our conference on NDAA,” he said. “So no, we did not miss a chance. The chance was not there in the first place.”

Still, Smith slammed using Pentagon funds for the wall as “really damaging.” 

“No. 1, it is not the best use of that money, not given all the other threats we face in the world,” he said. “No. 2, it sort of undermines DOD’s argument that they need more money. If you can just grab $7 billion out of your budget, then I think we need to take a closer look at your budget and how to cut it.”