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 on 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.
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-foot-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, that would go toward 80 new miles of border wall.
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.
“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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