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Appropriators fume over reports of Trump plan to reprogram $7.2 billion for wall

Congressional appropriators are seeking answers from the White House following a Washington Post report that President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE intends to reprogram $7.2 billion in military construction and defense funds toward building his border wall.

“To say this is unacceptable and infuriating would be an understatement,” said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Biden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Once again the President continues to abuse the separation of powers in our Constitution,” he added.

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The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump was planning to add money to his wall effort by transferring $3.5 billion from defense funds intended to combat drug trafficking and another $3.7 billion from military construction projects.

Trump's authority to transfer the funds falls under an emergency order he declared last year after Congress refused to fund more than $1.375 billion of his request, despite a 35-day government shutdown over the issue. At that point, he decided to transfer $2.5 billion in counter-narcotic funds and $3.6 billion in military construction funds toward the wall.

Democrats refused to back fill the funding for military construction projects that Trump emptied for the wall but were unable to convince Republicans to block Trump’s authority to reprogram the funds in a package of spending bills for 2020 that passed with broad bipartisan support in December.

Republican appropriators, more subdued than their Democratic counterparts on the issue Tuesday, said they had been caught unawares by the report and that they were seeking specifics from the White House.

“We have to weigh what this does to the military and what it affects and where and how,” said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBiden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Republicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks MORE (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as its Defense Subcommittee.

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“I wish they wouldn’t bother defense, but they’ve done it before,” he added.

Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate GOP opens door to earmarks Arkansas governor quietly bucking GOP's dive into culture wars Trump allies line up ahead of potentially bruising primaries MORE (R-Ark.), who chairs the subcommittee on military construction, expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re trying to figure out exactly what they want to do,” he said, “and what the unintended consequences might be.”

Democrats were outraged at the report, pointing to military infrastructure projects that Trump defunded last year, such as repairing a Kentucky school and building a medical center in North Carolina.

“Having failed to get his way in Congress, it appears President Trump is now once again forcing service members and their families to pay for his wall by cancelling even more vital military construction projects,” House Democratic appropriators, including House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyLobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (D-N.Y.), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDemocrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' MORE (D-Fla.), wrote in a joint statement

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“Moreover, at a time when the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the country, President Trump is stealing funding that was intended for meaningful counterdrug priorities to pay for his wall,” they added.

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzFinancial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted Democrats face big headaches on Biden's T spending plan Democrats introduce bill to give hotels targeted relief MORE (Hawaii), the top Democrat on the Senate’s military construction subcommittee, called the move “illegal,” but said he wasn’t sure the administration would follow through given that they had yet to spend reprogrammed funds from previous years.

“They haven’t spent the money they already stole,” he said.