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 TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 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 SchakowskyDrag queen attends first public Trump impeachment hearing Progressives ramp up fight against Facebook Veteran Chicago-area Democrat endorses Lipinksi challenger again MORE (D-Ill.), and sent Friday, 51 lawmakers ask House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithJudd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 'Marketplace of ideas' turns 100 — it's not what it used to be Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony 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 ThompsonChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC MORE (Miss), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoHillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Progressives urge end to mass phone data collection program Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Impeachment inquiry overshadows Trump at UN | Veterans push VA to follow through on reforms | Iranian leader open to changes in nuke deal MORE (Calif.), the defense panel’s readiness subcommittee head John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Trump labels Tlaib 'a despicable human being' Tlaib says Democrats have discussed detaining White House officials who don't testify MORE (Calif.), and 2020 presidential hopeful and House Armed Services Committee member Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Krystal Ball: Tulsi Gabbard surges, is she the most electable? 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 ReedIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number America's avengers deserve an advocate Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid 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.”