Panhandle Republican Angry About Diversion of Defense Funds

Barbara Schwarz
February 14, 2020 - 6:12 am
border wall

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

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Mac Thornberry calls shifting the congressionally appropriated money away from weapons and towards border security "Contrary to Congress's Constitutional Authority." 

SMU political scientist Cal Jillson says President Trump has shifted money from Defense towards building the border wall before.  "Most Republicans in Congress realize that if they do speak out against the president, he may respond with a Twitter comment and maybe more than that to drive them back into line."

He says this is a continuation of a debate that's been going on for a year and a half.  "Where the president is reprogramming money from the Defense Department to build his wall.  The first time he did it a year ago, there was a little bit of grumbling.  I think there's more grumbling now and Thornberry is part of that."

Jillson notes, however, that Thornberry, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee is among a number of Texas representatives not seeking re-election.   He has represented the state's 13th congressional district since 1994

 He adds recently other Republicans have spoken out, including Attorney General William Barr and former White House chief of staff John Kelly. 

Here is the text of Thornberry's letter:

Move is "Contrary to Congress’s Constitutional Authority"

WASHINGTON- Today, the Department of Defense notified Congress of its intent to divert funding already approved by Congress and signed into law away from critical military weapons and equipment to border security. Funding for these programs was directed by Congress in the FY20 Defense Authorization and Appropriations acts. Congress arrived at these funding levels after considering advice from the Department of Defense and making independent assessments of risk, threats, and other factors. Under the Constitution, Congress alone has the responsibility to 'raise and support Armies,' and 'to provide and maintain a Navy.' Rep. Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the Department’s reprograming action:

"Congress has the constitutional responsibility to determine how defense dollars are spent. We take the Pentagon’s recommendations seriously during our deliberations, but the final decisions are contained in the bills passed by Congress and signed into law. Once those choices have been made, the Department of Defense cannot change them in pursuit of their own priorities without the approval of Congress. Attempts to do so undermines the principle of civilian control of the military and is in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution. The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action.

I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take.

"To be clear, I continue to believe that the situation on our southern border represents a national security challenge for our country-- one that has been exacerbated by partisan politics in Washington. The wall should be funded, but the funding must come through the Department of Homeland Security rather than diverting critical military resources that are needed and in law."