Trump will sign budget deal and declare national emergency

By Tony Bertuca  
February 14, 2019 at 4:26 PM

President Trump will sign a congressional budget deal to avert another partial government shutdown, but will also declare a national emergency to fund construction of a wall on the southwestern border, according to a statement from the White House.

Though the move has the support of many Republicans in Congress including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Democrats are warning the GOP they will come to regret their support for the president's decision.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Republicans should be filled with "dismay about the door they're opening, the threshold that they're crossing," underscoring speculation that Democrats will seek to use emergency powers to fund a partisan agenda when one of their own comes to occupy the Oval Office.

The bill Trump intends to sign includes $1.37 billion for 55 miles of physical barrier along the southern border in Texas, far less than the $5.7 billion that the White House had sought.

It remains unclear where Trump will find the additional money for the wall, but lawmakers suspect it will come from the Pentagon, the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies.

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who last month said he opposed any plan that would use Defense Department funds to construct a wall on the southern border, today reiterated that opposition.

"Each of the past five administrations -- Republican and Democrat -- have sent military personnel and resources to our southern border. It should be clear to everyone that Congress has not provided adequate resources to control who and what crosses our border for many years," he said in a statement. "I appreciate the president's determination to do so, and I denounce the stonewalling of the Democratic leadership in Congress, which I believe is based more on politics than the national interests.

"At the same time, I encourage the president not to divert significant Department of Defense funding for border security," Thornberry continued. "Doing so would have detrimental consequences for our troops as military infrastructure was one of the accounts most deprived during the Obama-era defense cuts. And it would undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years – beginning to repair and rebuild our military. I hope that the president will pursue other options."

Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled House Budget Committee tweeted earlier today: "Trump is seriously mistaken if he thinks Dem support for the spending deal gives him a green light to take $ from other programs for his ineffective wall. We will use every means possible to stop POTUS from ignoring congressional intent and circumventing our power of the purse."

At the end of fiscal year 2018, the Defense Department had about $12.4 billion in unobligated military construction money, meaning it had yet to be put under contract, though it had been requested by DOD and authorized by Congress for specific projects, according to a Pentagon quarterly report sent to Congress in November and obtained by Inside Defense. 

Additionally, the department has about $8.5 billion that was appropriated for MILCON in FY-19, much of which, congressional staffer told Inside Defense in January, DOD is unlikely to have obligated.

"So we're talking about $20 billion sloshing around that could get used," a congressional staffer told Inside Defense in January. "But that money is spoken for in the sense that the department requested it and Congress has authorized and appropriated it already for a specific purpose. Those are projects at U.S. military installations and overseas that DOD will have to either cancel or defer if that money gets used to build a wall."