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House Armed Services Cmte. ‘denies’ Pentagon’s $1B approval for border wall

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, questions then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter Aug. 1, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Glenn Fawcett/Department of Defense)
March 26, 2019

The House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith has rejected the Department of Defense’s $1 billion authorization of funds for the southern border wall construction.

Smith rejected the measure on Tuesday, just one day after Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan moved $1 billion from military construction projects in preparation to transfer it to the southern border wall project, Reuters reported Tuesday.

“The committee denies this request. The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border,” Smith wrote in a letter to the DOD.

During a hearing on the DOD budget, Smith announced his rejection of the plan.

He added that Congress would not pass Trump’s annual budget proposal, noting that a $100 billion slush fund included in the proposal served as an exception to bypass Congress-imposed budget caps.

A clash is expected, as the DOD claims it has the power to move the funds, but it could spark legislation in Congress to amend Presidential authority laws like the one President Donald Trump used to declare the national emergency on the border.

Congress could also set its sights on the Pentagon’s authority to shift funds.

“DoD is attempting to circumvent Congress and the American people’s opposition to using taxpayer money for the construction of an unnecessary wall, and the military is paying the cost,” Smith said in the letter.

The latest border wall spat comes the same day House Democrats were unsuccessful in their attempt to override President Trump’s veto, which sought to end his emergency declaration on the southern border, USA Today reported Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to bring a lawsuit.

“We’re going to fight the president in the Congress, in the courts and in the court of public opinion and we will continue to fight,” Pelosi told USA Today exclusively.

“Even though we can’t override his veto we have established the intent of Congress and establishing the intent of Congress is a strong argument in the courts,” she added.

Using the powers granted by the National Emergencies Act, Trump deployed the national emergency order after Congress approved just $1.375 billion for border security, permitting only 55 miles of border fencing, despite his request for $5.7 billion.

The order permitted the Trump Administration to tap into unused funds for a response. He targeted DOD funds specifically, naming $3.6 billion to be diverted from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. Another $2.5 billion would be pulled from the military counternarcotics programs. The remaining roughly $600 million would be drawn from an asset forfeiture program in the Treasury Department.