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House bill would block Trump from using military funds for border wall

President Donald Trump visits the U.S.-Mexico border. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
July 08, 2020

The Democrat-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved a military construction spending bill for the 2021 fiscal year that would prohibit President Donald Trump from using military funds for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any prior Department of Defense Appropriations Acts may be used to construct a wall, fence, border barriers, or border security infrastructure along the southern land border of the United States,” the bill language reads.

The bill prohibits funding that has been appropriated since 2016 from being used on wall construction and creating access roads for sectors of the wall at the southern border.

The bill also includes language prohibiting the use of funds under the “Drug Interdiction and Counter-drug Activities, Defense” provision of the U.S. code from being used for wall construction. The provision appears to target specific language used by President Donald Trump to reallocate wall funding as necessary to prevent drug trafficking across the southern border.

The spending bill includes various other measures to counter Trump’s border construction efforts, such as language that aims to reverse his Feb. 13, 2020 decision to reroute some $3.8 billion in defense funds for the border wall.

“Funds made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2020 that were transferred by such Department on February 13, 2020, and remain unobligated as of the date of the enactment of this Act shall be returned to the original account or accounts and may not be used for any purpose other than the original purposes for which they were appropriated by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2020,” the bill states.

The bill’s language suggests any funds from Trump’s February order not yet spent the wall must be returned. It also conditions the use of funds to support troops who have been deployed along the southern border, requiring those funds to be reimbursed.

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty in support of security or immigration enforcement operations at the southern border unless the agency requesting such support enters into an agreement with the Secretary of Defense to reimburse the Department of Defense for all costs incurred by the Department to provide such services.”

The provision is likely to impose a prohibitive cost for military leaders called on to assist in border security missions. Trump has used U.S. troops since 2018 to take on border missions.

A Monday press release describing the defense construction provisions states, “Critically, the bill will prevent President Trump from stealing any more appropriated funds from urgently needed military infrastructure projects to pay for his wasteful border wall. Our military families and veterans deserve our respect, not the shabby treatment they have gotten from this administration.”