Durbin, Senate Dems Introduce Bill To Reverse & Restore Military Funding After President Trump Repeatedly Raids Defense Department For His Border Wall

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee; Doug Jones (D-AL), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and 27 additional Senators introduced the Restoring Military Priorities Act of 2020.  The bill would reverse and restore the Department of Defense’s (DoD) recent short sighted and dangerous transfer of $3.8 billion to be used to build part of President Donald Trump’s ineffective border wall.  The bill also reduces DoD’s transfer authority so that DoD cannot turn around and try to divert additional funding for President Trump’s border wall.  Currently, there is no other process at hand to reverse a reprogramming.

The most recent DoD reprogramming targeted the men and women of the National Guard and a variety of programs added by Congress to address shortfalls that were in many cases identified by military leaders.  This was the third time in less than one year that the Defense Department has used this unilateral process to bypass Congress and divert funding to President Trump’s border wall.

“Every dollar diverted from our men and women in uniform for President Trump’s ‘big, beautiful’ border wall was appropriated by Congress to address a need identified by our military.  This latest reprogramming was not just an attack on Congress’ power of the purse, it was an attack on military readiness” Durbin said.  “The Senate should reject the President’s money grab and reassert our Constitutionally-granted powers by supporting this legislation.”

“The President has deprived the men and women of our military, their families, and the American taxpayers of needed equipment, facilities, and training, all to pay for a failed campaign promise,” said Leahy.  “Our bill will help to restore the Constitutional power of the purse back to Congress and provide Senate Republicans an opportunity to give action to their repeatedly voiced concerns.”

“Today it’s a wall.  Tomorrow it could be another presidential pet project.  If Republicans go along with turning the Pentagon into a presidential piggy bank, it will weaken national defense now and in the future and set a precedent that can’t be undone.  President Trump is taking billions from military equipment and platforms and diverting it to an ineffective fence because he failed to get Mexico to pay for it.  It’s an insult to our troops and a misuse of needed defense funds,” said Reed.

“The president is stealing money from essential National Guard and Reserve programs in order to build a wall that will do nothing to protect America,” said Schatz.  “Our bill will reverse the president’s unlawful abuse of power and restore funding to the military so that our armed forces have the resources they need to keep the American people safe.”

“While I believe that securing our borders should be a top priority, we shouldn’t fund that effort by taking critical equipment away from our troops, like the Expeditionary Fast Transport ship built in Mobile, Alabama,” Jones said.  “This reprogramming of funds will impact military readiness, make us and our troops less safe, and hurt the hard-working Americans who build the aircraft, ships, and vehicles our service members need to successfully complete their missions.”

Along with Durbin, Leahy, Reed, Schatz, and Jones, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

In the spring of 2019, the Defense Department transferred $2.5 billion in funding to be used to build part of President Trump’s border wall, and the President later raided an additional $3.6 billion in military construction funds for his wall.  Earlier this month, the Defense Department reprogrammed another $3.8 billion from the men and women of the National Guard and a variety of programs added by Congress to address shortfalls that were in many cases identified by military leaders in critical equipment. 

In January, it was reported that President Trump intends to raid $7.2 billion in DoD funds this year to pay for his wall, diverting funding from military families and forcing American taxpayers to pay for his vanity project and failed campaign promise.

Full text of the legislation is available here