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 on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' 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 LeahyFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse 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, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending Fights over police reform, COVID-19 delay Senate appropriations markups 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 hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports 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 LoweyHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending 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 SchultzHouse panel advances bill banning construction on bases with Confederate names The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time VA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols 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 SchatzCensus workers prepare to go door-knocking in pandemic Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police 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.