Rep. Mike Turner has sharply warned the Trump administration that it would be “completely unacceptable” to divert federal dollars from military construction projects such as those at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton to build a wall along the Texas border.
With Trump repeating his threat Thursday to declare a national emergency and possibly use Pentagon dollars approved by Congress to build his wall, Turner, R-Dayton, and other lawmakers that they oppose “cannibalizing our military construction” money for border measures.
Trump last year signed a bill approved by Congress that includes $61 million to expand the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson. When completed, the $182 million project would be the largest expansion in the history of the base and will lead to hundreds of new jobs.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he has “the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I’m not prepared to do that yet. But if I have to, I will.”
Trump has demanded that Congress approve $5.7 billion to build a wall or barrier at the border to curb illegal immigration, a request rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“If this doesn’t work out, I probably will do it,” Trump said of declaring an emergency if talks with congressional Democrats remain stalled. “Maybe definitely.”
Trump’s advisers have floated the idea he could use money already approved by Congress for military construction for his wall.
But Turner said in an interview Thursday while “clearly we need additional funds for border security,” it would be “completely unacceptable to cannibalize those resources that have been set aside for our military people to use for border security.”
Turner said “we are a long way from” a decision to divert money from Wright-Patterson to build a wall. “Nancy Pelosi needs to come to the table and fund the border security request from the president and re-open the government.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, indicated he would prefer not to use military construction dollars to build a wall. Instead, he said Congress should approve the money for a wall.
“I think we should actually appropriate dollars for a border security wall, but I do think it’s an emergency and if the president declares that then we’ll go from there,” Jordan said during a Facebook Live discussion with fellow conservatives.
Jordan said if Trump declared an emergency, however, “it’ll end up in in court … and that just delays what we all know needs to get done.”
By contrast, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said he’d reluctantly accept a national emergency declaration if it ended the impasse.
“It’s not that I’m for it,” said Stivers, whose district is close to the air base. “It’s that it’s the only way to get to a resolution in my mind because of the digging in on the Republican and Democratic sides … It’s not my favorite approach but it might be the only way forward.”
He said he also supports ideas such as including allowing those brought to the country illegally as children to stay in the country legally in order to garner Democratic support.
He said he backs a wall, but also wants a resolution.
“I want this taken care of,” he said. “I want people taken care of. I’m worried about the humanitarian crisis on the border, but I’m worried about the humanitarian crisis of federal employees too.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has joined a group of GOP senators such as Lindsay Graham of South Carolina to find a solution to the impasse.
Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman, said “Rob has been meeting with his colleagues to find a fair and responsible resolution for all sides regarding securing the border. He believes both sides are going to have to compromise some to ensure the safety and security of all Americans.”