Top Armed Services Republican: Pentagon using $3.8B on border wall ‘requires Congress to take action’
The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is calling on Congress to take action against the Pentagon’s latest shuffling of money to President Trump’s southern border wall.
“The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement Thursday. “I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take.”
The Pentagon notified Congress on Thursday it will transfer $3.8 billion from various weapons programs into its counter-drug fund to be used to build Trump’s signature project.
The $3.8 billion is on top of the $6.1 billion Trump took from the Pentagon last year for the wall.
Congress twice voted to overturn the national emergency Trump declared that allowed him to reprogram military construction funds for the wall, but were unable to override his vetoes.
The money reprogrammed Thursday is being taken under a different executive authority that allows counter-drug funds to be used on the wall.
House Democrats had also included in the defense policy and spending bills restrictions on the Pentagon transferring money between accounts, but those provisions were taken out of the final products signed into law amid opposition from Republicans.
Thornberry, who voted against overturning Trump’s emergency declaration both times, said Thursday he still believes “the situation on our southern border represents a national security challenge for our country — one that has been exacerbated by partisan politics in Washington.”
But he said the wall should be funded by the Department of Homeland Security “rather than diverting critical military resources that are needed and in law.”
“Congress has the constitutional responsibility to determine how defense dollars are spent,” added Thornberry, who is retiring from Congress at the end of his term.
“We take the Pentagon’s recommendations seriously during our deliberations, but the final decisions are contained in the bills passed by Congress and signed into law. Once those choices have been made, the Department of Defense cannot change them in pursuit of their own priorities without the approval of Congress,” he said.
Thornberry’s opposition to the latest transfer could boost efforts to include restrictions for such moves in this year’s annual defense policy after Democratic efforts to get prohibitions in the bill failed last year.
The House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also unsurprisingly slammed the Pentagon’s latest transfer, saying it shows “once again that the president is obsessed with fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of our national security.”
“It is clear to me, and anyone with experience in national security policy, that a wall on our southern border will do nothing to support our strategic advantage over Russia and China, support counterterrorism, address rogue states, or enhance relations with partners and allies,” Smith said in his statement.
“It’s past time for the administration to align their policy with their rhetoric and focus on the real national security challenges at hand, not the President’s re-election,” he added.