WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials on Wednesday will begin notifying lawmakers who represent districts where key military construction projects will be delayed due to construction of President Donald Trump's border barrier, according to two congressional officials.
Trump issued an emergency declaration in February in an attempt to free up new federal funding for his controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall that had been denied by Congress and triggered a record-long partial government shutdown earlier this year. But since the border emergency was issued earlier this year, the Trump administration had not detailed publicly which projects would be affected.
Under the declaration, about $3.6 billion designated for military construction projects would be rerouted for border barrier construction. Of that, about $1.8 billion would be taken from military projects overseas, while the other half would come from projects in the continental U.S. and territories, according to one of the congressional officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement was not public.
"Put another way, there is no way to [redirect] $1.8 [billion] without touching health-safety-security-troops stuff," said one Democratic lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the impact of re-routing the funds.
House Democrats were informed of the Pentagon's plans at a Tuesday afternoon caucus-wide call.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper had notified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., earlier in the day.
Schumer said in a statement that one of the affected projects is at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.
"It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build," Schumer said Tuesday. "The president is trying to usurp Congress's exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military."
Though the administration, in its conversations with Capitol Hill, has characterized the projects as merely being delayed, it would depend on Congress approving new funds to revive them. House Democrats, who have uniformly opposed Trump's emergency declaration at the border, have vowed not to "backfill" the money - a promise that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who leads the House panel overseeing money for military construction projects, reiterated on the call earlier Tuesday.
The administration does not plan to provide a full list of affected projects to Capitol Hill until it has had a chance to inform individual lawmakers, congressional officials said.
This article was written by Seung Min Kim, a reporter for The Washington Post.