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 TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat 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 SchakowskyLawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps On The Money: House to vote on budget deal Thursday | US, China resuming trade talks next week | Mnuchin backs DOJ tech antitrust probe MORE (D-Ill.), and sent Friday, 51 lawmakers ask House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithIran talks unlikely despite window of opportunity GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped Warren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback 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 ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary 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 ThompsonTop Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data Hillicon Valley: 8chan owner defends platform before Congress | Facebook launches dating feature | New York City sues T-Mobile | Top NSA cyber official names ransomware as 2020 threat | Blue Dog Dems urge action on election security 8chan owner defends platform in testimony before Congress MORE (Miss), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoDemocrat Raul Ruiz challenged by Republican with the same name in California race House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment College should profit students and taxpayers — even at for-profit schools MORE (Calif.), the defense panel’s readiness subcommittee head John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiHouse Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Trump bashes Mueller for 'ineptitude,' slams 'sick' Democrats backing impeachment Pelosi denies she's 'trying to run out the clock' on impeachment MORE (Calif.), and 2020 presidential hopeful and House Armed Services Committee member Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard warns Trump: Acting like 'Saudi Arabia's b---- is not "America First"' This is how Democrats will ensure Trump's re-election Democrats debate in Houston: Who came out on top? 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 ReedIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Trump moving forward to divert .6B from military projects for border wall GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped 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.”