On hearing the news that the acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has authorized $1 billion to begin construction on portions of President Donald Trump’s long-sought wall at the border between the U.S. and Mexico, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Christmas had come early. According to HuffPost, that gleeful outlook seems to be permeating the White House as the anti-climactic news of the Mueller report being finished with no new indictments continues to resonate with Shanahan’s surprise move.
And even as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on whether to override President Donald Trump’s veto or allow his declaration of a national emergency to stand in order to secure border wall funding, the Pentagon has stepped in and is set to divert military funding to go to the wall project, a move some are saying is a gross violation of the military’s mandate.
Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan, in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, wrote that he was authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction on 57 miles of border fencing, as well as working on road improvements in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, citing federal law that authorizes the military to aid law enforcement agencies in anti-drug smuggling efforts.
However, that move was quickly met with pushback from Democratic lawmakers, as a group of senators responded with their own letter, calling it a usurpation of congressional authority to appropriate funds as mandated in the constitution. Led by Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the letter said the senators “strongly object” to the fund transfer, and questioned whether the Pentagon was inappropriately playing politics.
“We have serious concerns that the Department has allowed political interference and pet projects to come ahead of many near-term, critical readiness issues facing our military.”
Adding that the Pentagon requests billions in extra funding every year due to “unexpected shortfalls in paying our troops,” providing extra training, and maintaining equipment, the senators went on to call the $1 billion being diverted from military funding for the border wall “a dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces.”
The House vote on Tuesday is unlikely to override President Trump’s veto after he used the first veto of his presidency to reject Congress’ resolution to terminate his declaration of a national emergency to secure border wall funding. But the White House still suffered a setback when a dozen Republicans in the Senate sided with their Democrat counterparts to rebuke Trump, citing constitutional concerns, and the administration has been lobbying hard for Republicans to come out strong in support of the president in both the House and the Senate.