Republicans who supported an emergency declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border are discovering the cost of standing with President Donald Trump: millions of dollars in federal funds diverted away from planned military construction projects in their states.
Trump declared the emergency earlier this year to secure funds for a border wall after failing to persuade Congress to allocate money for its construction ― the same wall he initially promised Mexico would pay for. Only 12 Republican senators objected to the move in a Senate floor vote in March, with most of the GOP conference sticking with the president.
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), one of those who voted in support of the declaration, announced early Wednesday that the Trump administration was diverting $30 million in funds from an Army base in her state to construction of the wall ― even though she previously received assurances from an acting secretary of defense that her state would be spared.
The Arizona Republican, who is looking at a tough reelection fight next year, downplayed the move in her statement, saying the ground transportation project at Fort Huachuca was already facing delay due to “unforeseen environmental issues” at the construction site. Those issues are expected to continue until next year, her office said.
Top Arizona Democrats, however, criticized McSally in the wake of the announcement.
Former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is running to be the Democrats’ Senate nominee next year, accused McSally of failing “her most basic responsibility to put Arizona first.” He added that the senator “told Arizonans she had protected funding for Arizona military bases, and the fact is that she didn’t keep her word.”
Other Republican senators whose states are impacted by Trump’s diversion of military construction funds to build the wall include Thom Tillis of North Carolina ($80 million), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($62 million), John Cornyn of Texas ($48 million), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ($11 million) and Cory Gardner of Colorado ($8 million).
All of the above senators are also up for reelection in 2020, and they all similarly voted in support of Trump’s emergency declaration in March.
The Defense Department on Tuesday approved a total of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build 175 miles of border wall with Mexico. Officials said 127 military construction projects ― at home and around the world ― will be impacted. A complete list can be found here.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among the first lawmakers on Tuesday to say his state will be affected by the funding cuts ― in his case, money diverted from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Schumer called the Trump administration’s move a “slap in the face” to the troops and accused the president of “trying to usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse.”
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Virginia Democrats, said in a joint statement that four military projects in their state will lose $72 million in funding to Trump’s border wall. These include a cyber facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, a Navy ship maintenance center in Portsmouth, and projects replacing hazardous materials warehouses in Norfolk and Portsmouth.
“The well-being of American troops is the core responsibility of every commander in the military, yet the Commander-in-Chief is shirking that duty so he can advance his own political agenda,” Kaine said.
Defense Department officials have suggested that the construction of the affected military projects need not be delayed if Congress “backfills” and approves their funding again in the near future. But Democrats in the House and Senate have vowed not to do so.
“I’m not voting to appropriate the same money to the same project twice because what they are doing is illegal and I’m not an idiot,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
Trump’s emergency declaration is also facing a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has pledged to “block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall.”