By Jon Dougherty
POTUS Donald Trump vowed he would win the showdown with Congress over its initial rejection of his declaration of an emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border and he did.
On Wednesday, the House failed to override his veto on a vote of 248 in favor with 181 against, failing to reach the necessary two-thirds threshold required by the Constitution (14 Republicans voted with all Democrats).
Now that the national emergency has been sustained, the Pentagon has received its marching orders from the Commander-in-Chief, transferring $1 billion from various accounts to the Department of Homeland Security so construction on 57 miles of new 18-foot border wall can begin.
The Pentagon notified Congress and, predictably, Democrats on the various committees receiving notice objected. That included every Democratic senator serving on the on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittees on Defense and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, who wrote a letter to the DoD stating, accord to CNN:
“We strongly object to both the substance of the funding transfer, and to the Department implementing the transfer without seeking the approval of the congressional defense committees and in violation of provisions in the defense appropriation itself. As a result, we have serious concerns that the Department has allowed political interference and pet projects to come ahead of many near-term, critical readiness issues facing our military.”
In a press release the Pentagon stated:
Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan authorized the commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1 billion in support to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection. These funds will be used to support DHS’s request to build 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting within the Yuma and El Paso Sectors of the border in support of the February 15 national emergency declaration on the southern border of the United States.
10 U.S.C. § 284(b)(7) gives the Department of Defense the authority to construct roads and fences and to install lighting to block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of Federal law enforcement agencies.
Shanahan told DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that the new fencing would be built in the Yuma, Ariz., and El Paso, Texas, sections of the border.
On Tuesday, Shanahan told the House Armed Services Committee that the transfer of funds would not affect the military readiness of the U.S.
“I appreciate the inherent intra-government complexities of the southwest border situation. I also want to emphasize: The funds requested for the border barrier amount to less than one percent of the National Defense topline … Military construction on the border will not come at the expense of our people, our readiness, or our modernization,” he said.
That didn’t mollify the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Calif.), who said transferring funds without congressional approval would lead Congress to revoke the Defense Department’s ability to “reprogram” funds — an authority that has been in place for decades.
Fine, said Shanahan, but, “Given a legal order from the commander in chief, we are executing on that order.”
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