Dems seek to block shift in military funds to build border wall

Democratic lawmakers from New York are pushing for bill language to stop the Trump administration from moving military construction funds to extend the Mexican border wall, as it just did with $160 million that was supposed to pay for a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point.

In a joint letter this week, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney urged Senate and House committee leaders from both parties to keep two clauses to protect previously approved projects in a major defense bill for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. The Democratic-controlled House had included that language in its National Defense Authorization Act in July; it was not in the bill version the Republican-led Senate passed two weeks earlier. Conferees from both chambers must now negotiate the final bill.

The Trump administration announced this month it was shifting $3.6 billion Congress had allocated for 127 military construction projects to fund the border wall, including a $95 million engineering center and $65 million garage that were scheduled to be built next year at the U.S. Military Academy. President Trump had declared an emergency earlier in the year to allow the fund transfer, which prompted House Democrats to try to preserve funding for all military projects authorized since 2015 through the defense bill.

“The targeted military construction projects, including the Engineering Center at West Point, have undergone a thorough review process by the military and by Congress and were determined necessary for military operations, unlike the border wall,” Schumer, Gillibrand and Maloney wrote in their joint letter on Monday in support of the House language.

According to a fundraising brochure, the Cyber & Engineering Academic Center at West Point would be 130,000 square feet and would allow the academy to deliver inter-disciplinary courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that aren’t feasible in the 50-year-old classroom spaces used today.

“It is critical that West Point has modern facilities to deliver engineering and cyber education programs that anticipate Army needs and prepare our leaders for that future environment,” read the brochure from the West Point Association of Graduates. “Our facilities are not keeping pace with these changes and we are currently well behind our peers.”

It was unclear if funding for the engineering center could be restored if Congress approved the bill language that the two senators and Maloney supported (and if Trump signed a bill with those clauses, which seemed dubious).

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