President Donald Trump says he’s spoken with the governors of Florida and Georgia ahead of the expected landfall of a potentially devastating Hurricane Dorian this weekend. (August 30)
WASHINGTON – The $3.6 billion list of Pentagon construction projects postponed by the Trump administration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border includes nine schools for troops’ children and rebuilding money for military facilities damaged by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, according to a list of projects released Wednesday.
The administration’s transfer of money from defense projects to pay for President Donald Trump’s long-sought border wall has drawn bipartisan criticism in Congress. The list of 127 projects to be cut could intensify that fight as lawmakers learn the fate of military spending in their home districts, though the administration doesn’t need Congress’ approval to go forward.
Utah’s Republican Senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, blasted the delay in funding $54 million in projects in their state. The move undermines military readiness, Romney said. Lee called on Congress to rein in the president’s authority.
“Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches,” Lee said.
More than half the cuts – $1.8 billion – are to projects at overseas bases. The largest overseas reductions were $119 million for storage warehouses at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and $87 million for storage at Fairford Royal Air Force Base in the United Kingdom.
The nearly $1.1 billion in cuts for U.S. bases include $95 million for an engineering center at the U.S. Military Academy in New York state; nearly $88 million for a pier and maintenance facility in Bangor, Maine; and $85 million for a Reaper-drone operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Another $687 million in projects were cut in U.S. territories, including 10 in Puerto Rico, eight in Guam and three in the Virgin Islands. The Puerto Rico projects include $80 million for a training-equipment site in Camp Santiago, $64 million for an aircraft hangar in San Juan and $61 million for a school replacement in Punta Borinquen.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed with him that the border wall is key for national security.
“He feels it’s a national security problem; I do, too,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “When you have thousands of people trying to rush our country, I think that’s national security. When you have drugs pouring into our country, I view that as national security. And he had very good conversations with various members of Congress.”
Lawmakers criticized the diversion, saying Congress decides how to spend money rather than the executive branch under the Constitution. Congress appropriated $1.35 billion for border fencing as part of a compromise to end a partial government shutdown in February, but Trump sought more funding for one of his top priorities.
“The decision by the administration to divert funds from military construction projects in order to build the president’s ill-conceived wall is irresponsible,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “Congress appropriated these funds for specific military construction projects, and that’s how the funds should be used.”
She was particularly concerned about removing $8 million for the California Air National Guard for a C-130 simulator at Channel Islands Air Guard Station, to train pilots for disaster response.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the cuts an insult that would cannibalize military funding.
“It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country,” Schumer tweeted Tuesday.
It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that @realDonaldTrump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego, and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build. https://t.co/sv2ys87bw1
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 3, 2019
In July, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump could use billions in a separate category of military funding to begin building a portion of the wall along the nation’s southern border. The court’s order came months after Trump declared a national emergency to redirect funds from other federal agencies to the Department of Homeland Security.
The $3.6 billion in military construction faces separate litigation from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU will seek a court order to block use of the funds as part of its ongoing lawsuit challenging the emergency declaration.
Trump made the border wall a central theme of his 2016 campaign. Though the president has framed barrier construction as already well underway, most of that work was to replace existing fencing. The White House has struggled to get Congress to sign off on a large investment for new wall construction.
The letter includes projects in Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico. The projects will provide 140 miles of fencing, including some of which will replace current barriers.
More on President Donald and the southern-border wall:
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