Democrats' bill would stop DOD from using construction funds for border wall

By Tony Bertuca  
May 15, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee have proposed legislation that would prevent the Defense Department from reprogramming military construction funds to build barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bill, introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and John Garamendi (D-CA) would cap national emergency military construction authority at $250 million per emergency and "tighten the ability to waive other provisions of law in carrying out the projects," according to a statement from the lawmakers.

"The bill would only allow money that cannot be spent for its intended purpose to be used for an emergency, would require additional information in a congressional notification, and delay the start of construction until after a waiting period following the notification going to Congress," the statement reads.

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan is vetting a list of military construction projects that can be deferred so the Pentagon can transfer $3.6 billion to the border security effort.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has reprogrammed $2.5 billion to build about 135 miles of border fencing, though it bucked decades of tradition by doing so without the approval of Congress.

Democratic appropriators are now moving to restrict DOD's budgetary reprogramming authority.

"I've said it before, in no uncertain terms: The Trump administration's repeated efforts to divert previously appropriated funds from the Department of Defense to finance his misguided border wall is an affront to military readiness," Smith said. "While Congress has for years granted the department the flexibility to carry out military construction projects that support troops responding to a national emergency, such as after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the president's threat to use military construction funding to build portions of the border wall would be an inappropriate use of that authority."

The bill's other cosponsors include Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Filemon Vela (D-TX).