Bill would prevent Executive overreach to redirect funds for the border wall and other projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a group of House Armed Services Committee Democrats led by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.), and HASC Readiness Subcommittee Chair John Garamendi (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that will limit the Department of Defense’s authority to repurpose funds that were designated for military construction.

The bill would cap national emergency military construction authority at $250 million per emergency and tighten the ability to waive other provisions of law in carrying out the projects. The bill would only allow money that cannot be spent for its intended purpose to be used for an emergency, would require additional information in a congressional notification, and delay the start of construction until after a waiting period following the notification going to Congress.

The bill’s original cosponsors also include Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Filemon Vela (D-Texas).

“The Administration’s willful abuse of power to unilaterally enact misguided policy like building a wall on the southern border is Exhibit A in this administration’s overreach,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “By stealing money from troop recruitment accounts, counter narcotics efforts, and critical infrastructure, the Trump Administration is making our country less safe. This bill will ensure that the armed services will no longer be a bottomless piggy bank for the President’s worst political impulses, and will instead stay a ready, prepared, and highly professional force focused on the external defense of the nation rather than on doing the Department of Homeland Security’s job.”

“I’ve said it before, in no uncertain terms, the Trump Administration’s repeated efforts to divert previously appropriated funds from the Department of Defense to finance his misguided border wall is an affront to military readiness,” said House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith. “While Congress has for years granted the Department the flexibility to carry out military construction projects that support troops responding to a national emergency, such as after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the President’s threat to use military construction funding to build portions of the border wall would be an inappropriate use of that authority. The legislation introduced today will ensure the use of this emergency military construction authority is transparent, within a reasonable cost range, and most importantly, will only draw from sources of funding that do not hamper existing construction projects or military readiness. In short, this bill will provide the American people an understanding of how their tax dollars are being used in times of national emergency while safeguarding military readiness.”

“The President is ignoring the will of Congress and attempting to steal funds from crucial military construction (MILCON) projects to pay for his wall. Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution makes it clear that Congress has the power of the purse,” said House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chair John Garamendi. “Congress debated the issue of border security for a year-and-a-half and decided to spend $1.2 billion on more effective border security technologies than the President’s vanity wall. This crucial legislation will provide a vital check on the executive branch and prohibit the President from using the MILCON budget and other critical projects as a personal slush fund to fulfill a campaign promise. As Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee within the House Armed Services Committee, I oversee the MILCON and readiness accounts and understand how dependent our nation’s military installations are on the timely delivery of MILCON funds. I am proud to join Chairman Smith and Representative Gallego in sponsoring this critical bill.”