51 Dems ask House defense panel head to block Trump from using military funds for border wall

51 Dems ask House defense panel head to block Trump from using military funds for border wall
© Greg Nash

More than 50 House Democrats want to prevent President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE from using future military funds to build his proposed border wall, even as the president has backed off from declaring a national emergency in order to do so. 

In a letter led by Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyDemocrats rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez Pelosi says she's done talking about fight with 'Squad' Democrats voice confidence Pentagon bill will survive party squabbling MORE (D-Ill.), and sent Friday, 51 lawmakers ask House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (D-Wash.), to use the upcoming fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent the U.S. military “from becoming a pawn in Trump’s immoral, wasteful, and potentially illegal border ‘wall.’ ”

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The letter asks Smith to work to ensure that Trump and acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE “cannot utilize a fake ‘national emergency’ to co-opt the military into the construction of the President’s wall.”

The lawmakers also ask Smith to “continue to signal your intent to impose strong restrictions in the NDAA.”

Trump in the past month has indicated numerous times he may declare a national emergency in order to direct military funds for construction of his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the lawmakers argue that a president’s war powers “are the most serious powers held by the Commander in Chief and should never be utilized for political stunts, only genuine national security emergencies."

“As you know the Constitution gives the House the power to appropriate federal funds. Spending funds on a wall Congress has not authorized is a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act as well as a violation of separation of powers,” the letter states. 

The letter has 51 signatures, including Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest Border Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy MORE (Miss), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoSteyer group targeting 12 congressional Democrats over impeachment ICE does not know how many veterans it has deported, watchdog says The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration MORE (Calif.), the defense panel’s readiness subcommittee head John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiBipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval House panel shoots down funding, deployment of low-yield nukes in defense bill Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland MORE (Calif.), and 2020 presidential hopeful and House Armed Services Committee member Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSanders praises Gen Z for being 'profoundly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic' Next Generation foreign policy: Time for the Democrats to embrace restraint 3 reasons billionaire activist Tom Steyer is running for president MORE (Hawaii).

Trump said Friday he will back a short-term funding bill to reopen the government that does not include money to build a wall along the southern border, bowing to mounting pressure fueled by growing disruption due to the lengthy shutdown.

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," Trump said from the Rose Garden of the White House.

The deal — which ends the 35-day shutdown — amounts to a victory for Democrats who have stood firm against the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. Trump had said for weeks he would not reopen the government without that money.

The commander-in-chief could still use his executive powers and declare a national emergency should no deal be made on border security in the next three weeks. 

The White House already has a draft proclamation for Trump to declare such an emergency, identifying more than $7 billion in potential funds for the wall, CNN reported Thursday.

Before declaring his stopgap measure, Trump said Thursday that “the military wants this to happen,” referring to the wall. 

Smith has already indicated he would look to prevent Trump from taking military money for a wall, saying earlier this month that it would be a "terrible" decision and the president would face legal challenges.

Senate Democrats have also opposed such a move, with its Armed Services panel ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPentagon chief nominee: 'We need to get back on the diplomatic channel' with Iran Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment MORE (R.I.), saying Thursday that Trump “should stop trying to use our military as a prop.”

“The Defense Department produced a National Security Strategy for the President that in no way backed up his claim that: ‘The military wants this [wall] to happen,’ ” Reed said in a statement.

Should he go that route, “you can be sure future presidents will employ this tactic on all manner of ‘emergencies’ in order to fund their pet projects.”