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 TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address 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 SchakowskyHouse Dem cites transgender grandson in voting for Equality Act Dems plan 12-hour marathon Mueller report reading at Capitol US should be producing the HIV prevention drug its research helped create MORE (D-Ill.), and sent Friday, 51 lawmakers ask House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info 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 ShanahanTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Iran slams US troop deployment: 'Extremely dangerous' for Middle East peace Overnight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess 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 ThompsonDHS suggests new role for cybersecurity staff — helping with border crisis Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact MORE (Miss), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration Dems push to revive Congress' tech office Veterans' suicides are an epidemic MORE (Calif.), the defense panel’s readiness subcommittee head John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military House Dems unveil bill to limit Pentagon's ability to transfer military construction dollars Unchain seniors from chained inflation index MORE (Calif.), and 2020 presidential hopeful and House Armed Services Committee member Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding CNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Progressive Democrat says Trump victory shed light on divide between Silicon Valley, rural US 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 ReedTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Senate panel advances Trump's Space Force Senate panel rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps, advances defense bill that backfills wall money 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.”