Politics

House Democrats Move To Block Any Additional Spending For Trump’s Border Wall

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

House Democrats introduced legislation that would block the Pentagon from reallocating money to border wall construction, an attempt to undercut President Donald Trump’s trademark campaign goal.

A defense spending bill introduced Tuesday by Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee not only gives the Department of Defense far less money than it requested, but also limits its authority to shift funds within its budget. The legislation comes after Democrats have grown enraged at the Pentagon for diverting funds toward border wall construction without first asking permission from Congress.

“This bill rejects the Trump administration’s budgetary gimmicks and sleights of hand and instead provides the Defense Department with appropriate resources to address an evolving threat landscape and ensure the security of our nation and our allies,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat from New York, said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The 158-page document provides the Pentagon, in total, $690.2 billion for the 2020 fiscal year — an increase of $15.8 billion from the current fiscal year. Roughly $622 billion will be allocated for base budget funding and the other $68 billion would go toward a war fund called the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

“We have the most capable and advanced military in the world, and this bill honors their mission by adequately funding programs to care for service members and their families, and by protecting defense funding from being stolen for the President’s wasteful wall,” Lowey continued, sharply criticizing Trump’s most well-known immigration proposal.

The harsh words follow billions the Pentagon has already allocated toward border wall construction.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, return to Mexico after attempting to illegally cross the border wall into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials after attempting to illegally cross the border wall into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif – RC1C0CA22840

The Pentagon announced in March, for example, that it had authorized $1 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for new border walls between the U.S.-Mexico border, which will ultimately build 57 miles of 18-feet-high pedestrian fencing. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved another $1.5 billion, shifted from a nuclear ballistic missile system and a plane surveillance program, would go toward 80 new miles of border all.

While the Pentagon has the authority to reallocate its own funds, it typically asks Congress for permission beforehand. Democratic lawmakers, all of whom are mostly opposed to Trump’s border wall, have expressed frustration at the Department of Defense for not doing so. (RELATED: Thousands Booted Out Of US Under Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy)

“We look forward to hearing your views on how you intend to repair the damaged relationship between the defense oversight committees and the Department,” several Democratic senators wrote in a statement to the Pentagon on Friday.

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