Two key Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday said that they do not believe that President Donald Trump should use military construction dollars to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reps. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, both said they opposed the prospect of using defense construction dollars to pay for border security. As the impasse over Trump’s $5 billion request for a border wall approaches the third week, Trump has explored the possibility of declaring the crisis at the border a national emergency and exploring using unobligated money from military construction to pay for the construction.
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Trump last year signed a military construction bill that included an appropriation of $61 million to expand the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, part of a $182 million expansion project. The $61 million allocation would cover the beginning of construction, which is expected to be about two and a half years. NASIC analyzes air, space and cyber threats, providing their findings to the nation’s political and military leaders. It’s unclear if Trump could use all or part of that money to pay for the border wall.
"Having fought to secure the $182 million expansion at NASIC, I am, of course, opposed to any of these funds being used for border security,” Turner said late Tuesday. “Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer should end this shutdown and fully fund our border security.”
Thornberry, in a roundtable with reporters Tuesday, said he opposes using Defense dollars for “non-defense purposes.” While Trump has argued that the border wall is a defense purpose, “it seems to me they ought to fund their border security needs on their own and not be taking it from other accounts.”
“I am opposed to using defense dollars for anything else,” he said, saying while “border security is very important, it is not a responsibility of the Department of Defense.”
Thornberry is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Turner is a senior Republican on the committee.
Thornberry said it’s unclear how much of the military construction balance is not obligated, and critics have said they are concerned that Trump would have to “claw back” appropriations previously approved in order to reach his $5 billion goal.
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Thornberry said his understanding is that if the money is obligated, then it’s safe from being taken for use on the border wall but cautioned that “because a dollar is not yet obligated does not mean it doesn’t have a purpose.”
“Maybe they don’t have a contract,” he said, saying that military construction money sometimes takes a little longer to be contracted.
“I don’t want anyone to think that just because you have an unobligated balance that extra money is laying around,” he said.