Congress

Trump’s emergency could divert millions from military projects in Missouri, Dems say

Trump announces national emergency to get border wall funding

In declaring his signing of an executive order to declare a national emergency, President Trump said on Feb. 15, "it's been signed many times before...there's rarely been a problem."
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In declaring his signing of an executive order to declare a national emergency, President Trump said on Feb. 15, "it's been signed many times before...there's rarely been a problem."

Military construction projects in Missouri could see their funding endangered by President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, according to Democratic leaders.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office has circulated a list of projects that could potentially be affected by Trump’s plan to steer billions toward the construction of a border wall.

The administration already faces a legal challenge from 16 states that say the president’s action is an unconstitutional circumvention of Congressional power to appropriate money. If Trump prevails, he could divert funds designated for military construction.

This could place at risk $670 million for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) facility in St. Louis, a major priority for the Missouri delegation, according to the list shared by Pelosi’s office.

The NGA declined to comment on the possibility the project’s possible delay.

The agency, part of the Department of Defense, analyzes satellite and drone imagery. It played a major role in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, has previously touted the new NGA installation as critical and praised the federal government’s commitment to it. He reiterated the project’s importance Thursday during an event in St. Louis when he was asked about the list.

“I hope it would not be somewhere the president would want to look. I’ve been watching that pretty closely… It’s an essential part of our future security,” Blunt said.

“It’s a top security priority. I hope we don’t have any interruption at all.”

The list of roughly 400 vulnerable projects was assembled by Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee, based on pending military construction plans for which funding has been allocated but not yet committed.

These ventures could have funding cut, delayed or canceled as a result of Trump’s declaration, according to a congressional aide. The full list accounts for about $16 billion in military construction.

The list also includes a pair of initiatives at Fort Leonard Wood in southern Missouri, totaling more than $260 million. The money, allocated in 2018, is intended to replace the base’s hospital and blood processing center.

The public information office at Fort Leonard Wood referred all requests for comment to the Department of Defense, which, like the White House has yet to respond to questions. There are no Kansas projects listed.

Blunt stressed during his St. Louis visit that a temporary funding delay wouldn’t mean that the Missouri projects would be scrapped permanently.

A Senate Republican staffer dismissed the Democratic list as speculation.

The president made the declaration under National Emergencies Act of 1976, a broadly written law that has been invoked numerous times by chief executives of both parties without a successful court challenge.

The possible impact to already approved military projects comes as Republican lawmakers struggle to respond to the president’s declaration, which could set a precedent that enables future Democratic presidents to use emergency declarations to bypass Congress.

House Democrats are expected to pass a resolution of disapproval. This will put pressure on Senate Republicans to take a hard stance on the issue— something the GOP senators from the Kansas City region have resisted so far.

Three of the four Republican senators from the Kansas City area have raised concerns about the declaration, but none have indicated that they’ll join Democratic-led efforts to thwart it.

“I am concerned with using the national emergency mechanism to sidestep Congress to fund border security. It sets a dangerous precedent,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said in a statement Tuesday. “It is imperative that Congress and the administration work together to secure our borders and end the influx of illegal immigrants entering the U.S.”

Blunt, one of lawmakers who negotiated a bipartisan border deal, repeatedly warned against the use of emergency powers. He sought unsuccessfully to persuade Trump to instead use his more limited transfer authority to free up additional dollars.

However, Blunt, who canceled a Wednesday event in Kansas City due to weather, has made no statements on the matter since Trump officially made his declaration last week. His office declined to respond to questions about the proper congressional response.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, issued a statement last week blaming Democrats for the president’s decision but offering no criticism of Trump. Hawley’s office said the statement does not take a position on the declaration.

“The President is pursuing any steps he can to secure the border and build a wall. Democrats put us in this situation because they refused to secure the border and fund the wall,” Hawley said in the statement.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, has repeatedly expressed concerns about about precedent, but he avoided taking a firm position Saturday when the Kansas Republican Party held its annual convention in Topeka.

“I’m worried that if it gets used this time, what’s the next instance in which it becomes used? This can’t be an emergency in the eye of the beholder,” Moran said. “It has to have a real standard behind it. And so, I’m going to have conversations with Kansans and try to figure out what the right answer to this question is.”

The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.

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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.

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