FILE PHOTO: Construction workers raise the 30-foot high bollard style wall, at the US-Mexico border to replace a section of the border wall near Calexico, California, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department sent Congress a request to shift nearly $4 billion from the military budget to pay for a wall on the border with Mexico, a central promise of President Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House four years ago and bid this year for a second term.
Lawmakers said they received a request on Thursday to reprogram more than $3.8 billion from funding for the National Guard and weapons programs, setting the stage for a possible confrontation with Democrats.
Democratic aides said $1.5 billion would come from the National Guard, and the rest from funds for procurement, including the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jet program, Lockheed C-130 aircraft, Boeing Co (BA.N) P-8 Poseidon aircraft, Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey helicopters and shipbuilding.
Congressional Democrats, who opposed Trump’s past diversion of billions of dollars in military spending to the border wall project, said the decision was dangerous and misguided.
“President Trump is once again disrespecting the separation of powers and endangering our security by raiding military resources to pay for his wasteful border wall,” Democratic Representatives Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, and Pete Visclosky, chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said in a statement.
“The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power of the purse. Congress rejected President Trump’s full request for wall funding, which is why he is now orchestrating this backdoor mechanism to prop up a political vanity project,” they said.
The Trump administration has vowed to build at least 400 miles (640 km) of wall along the border by November 2020, when Americans will vote for president. In his 2016 campaign, Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall. The Mexican government has consistently refused to do so.
Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, particularly for immigrants who come across the southern border with Mexico, have been a signature of his political campaign and first term in the White House.
The Trump administration has built nearly 100 miles (160 km) of border wall, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics current to late December. All of those barriers replaced existing structures, the agency said.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis