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 TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill 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 Democrats call on Trump administration to lift restrictions on fetal tissue for coronavirus research The Memo: Virus crisis upends political world Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 5G rivals to Huawei | Amazon, eBay grilled over online counterfeits | Judge tosses Gabbard lawsuit against Google | GOP senator introduces bill banning TikTok on government devices MORE (D-Ill.), and sent Friday, 51 lawmakers ask House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Navy chief resigns over aircraft carrier controversy | Trump replaces Pentagon IG | Hospital ship crew member tests positive for coronavirus President tightens grip on federal watchdogs Navy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis 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 ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January 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 ThompsonDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response MORE (Miss), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Rep. Mark Takano endorses Sanders The Hill's 12:30 Report: Super Tuesday fallout MORE (Calif.), the defense panel’s readiness subcommittee head John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with outbreak | Trump to expand use of defense law to build ventilators | Hospital ships receiving few patients Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak Biden rise calms Democratic jitters MORE (Calif.), and 2020 presidential hopeful and House Armed Services Committee member Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order The Hill's Morning Report — ,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort Gillibrand endorses Biden 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 ReedNavy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Pentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements 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.”