Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a group of colleagues today introduced legislation to prevent the president from using the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to raid critical military construction, water infrastructure and disaster response funds to build a border wall.
In addition to Senator Feinstein, the Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-appropriations (RAIDER) Act of 2019 (S.326) is supported by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
Full text of the bill is available here.
President Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and finance construction of his border wall. Under the National Emergencies Act, the funds most at risk of being misdirected to build the president’s wall are Army Corps of Engineers civil works funds and military construction funding.
What the bill does:
This legislation would bar the transfer of any funding from Corps of Engineers or military construction accounts for construction, land acquisition or other activities related to President Trump’s border wall following any potential emergency declaration, unless Congress granted specific authority to do so.
While the administration has not released precise figures, some estimates indicate there could be as much as $35 billion in congressionally appropriated but yet unobligated funding for DOD military construction projects and Army Corps disaster funds at risk from an emergency declaration move.
“The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power of the purse,” said Senator Feinstein. “Congress dedicated funds for important water infrastructure and military construction projects and to prepare for the next major natural disaster. That’s how those funds should be spent. They certainly shouldn’t be diverted by President Trump for his wasteful, unworkable border wall.”
“The president simply cannot go around Congress to fund his ridiculous vanity project. I’m proud to introduce this bill today to stand up to the president as he considers abusing his power by stealing money from critical projects in California to finance the construction of a wall that Congress won’t fund and people on the border don’t even want,” said Senator Harris. “This bill will stand up for Congress’ power of the purse and maintain important Army Corps of Engineers projects that will protect our communities from natural disasters.”
“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,” said Senator Udall. “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.”
“We cannot allow President Trump to raid taxpayer dollars to pay for a wall that New Mexicans don’t want or need,” said Senator Heinrich. “With this legislation, we can prevent funds designated for critical military construction and disaster response from being raided for a wasteful border wall under the false pretense of a national emergency.”
“President Trump shouldn’t be raiding essential funding from Americans recovering from natural disasters, or from our critical military infrastructure to pay for his vanity project,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Senate Democrats have already voted for bipartisan legislation that prioritizes effective border security. This, and any future President, shouldn’t be using politics to manufacture a crisis and take funds from critical programs that serve Americans.”
“As the President continues to spout lies about our challenges at the southern border as an excuse to build a wasteful wall and considering declaring a non-existent national emergency, Congress must protect vital projects in our nation’s defense,” said Senator Menendez. “And there’s no way I’m going to let Trump to raid funds for New Jersey military installations, flood protection and major military construction projects – including the Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst and Picatinny Arsenal – to pay for it.”
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 64 percent of Americans oppose the president using an emergency declaration to build the wall, including 66 percent of independents, while only 34 percent support it. A recent CBS News poll found that “66 percent of Americans overall say President Trump should not declare a national emergency if Congress does not fund a border wall.”