Congress

Some Republicans with bases in their districts break ranks with Trump over wall funding

Money shouldn’t be diverted from necessary military construction projects, lawmakers say

Ohio Rep. Michael R. Turner is among the Republican lawmakers with a military base in their districts who opposes the president’s circumvention of congressional spending powers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Though typically aligned with the White House, some Republicans who have military bases in their districts oppose President Donald Trump raiding $3.6 billion in military construction projects to finance walls along the southern border.

Recent polling finds that most Americans oppose Trump’s circumvention of Congress to divert already-appropriated funds to build a wall, and the percentage of voters who endorse the idea tracks closely to the president's approval rating. 

Speaking out against Trump entails some political risk for most Republicans. So while many have groused that the national emergency declaration is legally dubious and could give the other party a similar weapon when a Democrat is in the White House, few have outright opposed the maneuver. 

But some in the House Republican Caucus have sounded off about the diversion of nearly half the annual budget for military construction.

This pot of money often funds the “runways, piers, warehouses, barracks, schools, hospitals, child development centers, and other facilities needed to support U.S. military forces at home and overseas,” according to the Congressional Research Service. And lawmakers champion those projects as a boost to the economy outside the bases.

It’s not yet clear which projects would go unfunded in order to finance the wall.

[LISTEN: CQ Budget podcast — Trump ignites new budget fights by targeting Pentagon programs]

Ohio Rep. Michael R. Turner supports a wall along the southern border. But the former chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee breaks from the president’s plan to divert military funds to build it.

“As I have voiced to this Administration repeatedly, I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects,” Turner said in a statement .

Turner’s Dayton-anchored 10th District include the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which he has called a“critical economic engine in southwest Ohio.” 

Turner has fiercely defended military spending, even for programs criticized for potentially fatal defects and cost overruns, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Watch: Trump announces national emergency on border, despite likely legal challenge

When Texas Republican Roger Williams, whose 25th District partly encompasses Fort Hood, was asked if he supports Trump’s emergency declaration at a town hall meeting Tuesday, he answered “no.”

Williams said he is concerned the wall could siphon funding meant for improvements to barracks he described as “condemned and falling down,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“One of the things that I was able to accomplish was to get $61 million into Fort Hood so we can rebuild the barracks that literally were condemned and literally were falling down, and our kids (soldiers), many of them were sleeping on the ground, that should never happen,” Williams said. “We’ve got money for motor pools, we’ve got money for runways. All this stuff’s happening, from a selfish standpoint, and I’d hate to see a lot those dollars diverted from that.”

Concerns that the emergency declaration could mean further deterioration of dilapidated military housing — which have been beleaguered by mold, lead paint and rodents under private ownership — have dominated headlines in recent days.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Saturday that housing projects would not be a target.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan’s recent comments that military housing will not be touched is an important step, and Congressman Williams will continue to push the issue to make sure this is the case," a spokeswoman for Williams said Wednesday.

Oregon Republican Greg Walden stated his opposition to the national emergency declaration in terms of a constitutional breach. But Walden’s district also houses the Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base.

“Congress has granted the executive branch certain spending authorities. I strongly object to any president acting outside of those explicit authorities to spend money that Congress has not appropriated for specific initiatives,” Walden said in a statement Saturday.

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