In-Depth: Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX) introduced this bill to prohibit the transfer of funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Military Construction (MilCon), and other accounts to construct border barriers, even under an emergency declaration per the National Emergencies Act of 1976:
“The President’s national emergency declaration is a ploy to bypass Congress and the Constitution to fund his border wall. The Constitution is clear: ‘No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law. By President Trump’s own admission, his actions were not based on an actual national security emergency. President Trump’s actions threaten not only the Constitutionally-mandated balance of power, the very basis of our democracy, but he actually risks our national security. Taking billions in funds designated for military construction projects and flood-control and infrastructure projects at waterways and ports will harm the military’s mission and put communities at risk. Draining the accounts that fund Resaca restoration, improvements at the Port of Brownsville, and training facilities at Naval Air Station Kingsville, the Corpus Christi Army Depot and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi will have a direct impact on South Texas military installations and communities. The ripple effect of this action will resonate throughout every congressional district in the Country."
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who is the sponsor of the Senate version of this bill, says this bill is needed to prevent Trump from building a wall that Americans don’t support:
“After the Trump shutdown, it’s clear that President Trump will stop at nothing to try to build a wasteful, ineffective, and offensive wall that New Mexicans and the American people reject. While declaring a national emergency to raid funds to build the wall would almost certainly be challenged in court, Congress should not wait for the courts to act. We must stand up and assert our role as a co-equal branch of government, and we must prevent the president from going around Congress to raid critical funds – funds we have appropriated for disaster recovery, flood protection, and military base construction projects – for a politically-motivated, unjustified national emergency declaration that isn’t based in reality.”
There are five Democratic cosponsors of this bill. This bill is the House companion to S. 325, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) with the support of 15 Democratic cosponsors.
Of Note: While the Trump administration hasn’t released precise figures, some estimates indicate there could be as much as $35 billion in congressional appropriated, but as-yet unobligated, funding for DOD military construction projects and Army Corps disaster funds at risk from an emergency declaration.
Democrats have widely criticized the idea of using a national emergency declaration to access money for Trump’s wall. They argue that such a move would be legally questionable and unjustified, as they claim there’s no national emergency at the border.
Presidents have broad authority to declare emergencies. However, they typically do so in wartime — not to access resources for domestic priorities, as would be the case if Trump were to use a national emergency declaration to take money from other parts of the federal government for his border wall.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Sherry Smith)