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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 John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote 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 LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 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 ShelbyFinger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag 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 BoozmanRomney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' COVID-19 relief talks look dead until September  Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick 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 LoweyOffice of Special Counsel widens Pompeo probe into Hatch Act violations  Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo's Jerusalem speech 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 SchultzFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Five things to watch at the Democratic National Convention Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' 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 SchatzSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing 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.