House Dems demand Pentagon provide details about plans to fund Trump border wall

House Dems demand Pentagon provide details about plans to fund Trump border wall
© UPI Photo

Five Democratic leaders of House Armed Services and Appropriations committees are demanding more details from the Defense Department about its plans to steer funds to help build President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE’s southern border wall.

In a letter sent Thursday, the lawmakers asked acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Trump defense chief: US may send more troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions Dem senator plans amendment to restrict military action against Iran MORE for 25 different types of documents related to the use of Pentagon military construction and counter-drug funds to construct the wall. 

The Pentagon is planning to steer the money after Trump declared a national emergency last month, as he seeks to bypass Congress and use roughly $8 billion to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“While the President has issued a national emergency proclamation, our committees are still responsible for performing their constitutional oversight responsibilities,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers asked for the documents and information by March 14 “given the speed with which we believe the Department of Defense may be acting in response to the emergency proclamation.”

The letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info Shanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report Trump officials say US efforts to deter Iran have worked MORE (D-Wash.), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyDemocrats advance more spending bills, defying Trump budget requests Congress reaches deal on disaster aid Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (D-N.Y.), House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzCongressional Women's Softball team releases roster Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences House panel advances bill to block military construction funds for border wall MORE (D-Fla.) and House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee Chairman John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military House Dems unveil bill to limit Pentagon's ability to transfer military construction dollars Unchain seniors from chained inflation index MORE (D-Calif.).

The Trump administration plans to pull $6.1 billion from Pentagon accounts to help fund a border wall, with $2.5 billion to be taken from counter-drug programs and $3.6 billion from military construction funds.

When declaring the national emergency,  Trump said military leaders supported his idea to repurpose military dollars.

“Some of the generals think this is more important,” Trump said Feb. 15. “I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said ‘what were you going to use it for?’ And I won’t go into details but [it] didn’t sound too important to me.”

Lawmakers, however, have expressed alarm at the idea of moving the dollars, which they say are necessary for military readiness.

There are also concerns that in taking the military construction funds, military families would be impacted.

The Defense Department is currently grappling with a $116 billion maintenance backlog that has left military families living in unsafe and poor conditions.

The lawmakers also asked Shanahan to inform the congressional defense committees at least 60 days ahead of any Pentagon funds being allocated to or spent on building a border wall or barrier. 

Some lawmakers have also pushed back on the idea of raiding Pentagon accounts, including House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

Thornberry said in a statement in February that moving the money “would have detrimental consequences for our troops,” and that he hoped “the President will pursue other options.”