Congress

Democrats say military projects are at risk as they prepare to defy Trump on wall

House Democrats plan to vote Tuesday on a measure to block President Donald Trump’s border wall emergency order — and they’ll be armed with some powerful ammunition, a list of military projects from coast to coast that they say could be casualties of the White House’s decision.

The full list circulated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office includes about $16 billion in military construction spending, including $158 million in Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.

The Department of Defense said Friday that no decisions have yet been made regarding specific projects. White House officials have said they plan to tap $3.6 billion in yet-to-be spent military construction funds as part of $8 billion in federal money they intend to use for wall construction.

Under a national emergency declaration, the president has the right to divert the so-called “unobligated” funds to address the emergency — in this case, to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Democrats charge that the emergency declaration Trump issued last week could lead to funding cuts, delays or cancellations of the projects and have scheduled a vote Tuesday on a measure to block the order. 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.

Since Democrats have a 235-197 majority in the House, the measure is expected to pass. That would put pressure on Senate Republicans, who hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, to take a politically risky stand on the issue.

Many are expected to stick with Trump, though even Republican critics have warned that the president’s move could set a precedent that enables future Democratic presidents to bypass Congress and use emergency declarations for their pet projects and issues.

McConnell, who had hoped to avoid an emergency declaration, said he’d support Trump’s declaration, calling it a “predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest.”

President Trump declared a national emergency to unlock funds for a border wall that he couldn’t get from Congress. Those Republicans supporting the move didn’t approve when President Obama used his executive power to act on immigration in 2014.

The list of already approved military projects that could be affected include $63 million for Fort Campbell Middle School, as well as $26 million for a fully computerized target practice range at Fort Knox. McConnell in June announced that he had secured the funding for the school and would be likely to seek to protect that money.

Republicans have dismissed the list as hypothetical, noting that the defense department has yet to determine which funds will be used. But they’re also keeping a watchful eye.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said he’s closely monitoring $670 million set aside for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) facility in St. Louis, a major priority for the Missouri delegation.

“It’s a top security priority,” Blunt said Thursday during an event in St. Louis when he was asked about the list of military projects that Democrats say Trump could tap. “I hope we don’t have any interruption at all.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has said the Kentucky students would still get a school, but would have to wait.

“It’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.”

Democrats outlined their plan on Friday, with Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, accusing Trump of attempting an “unconstitutional power grab.”

Normally, Pelosi explained, Trump would make his funding request to the chairman of the appropriate congressional committee.

“The chairman of the committee says yes or no, that has never been overruled,” she said. “So this is depending on the approach he takes, we’ll see, but we’re prepared for the worst because right now the president is engaged in the worst, which is to undermine the Constitution of the United States.”

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.

Bryan Lowry of the Kansas City Star’s Washington Bureau contributed
Lesley Clark works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, covering all things Kentucky for McClatchy’s Lexington Herald-Leader. A former reporter for McClatchy’s Miami Herald, she also spent several years covering the White House.
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