Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. senator wants the Pentagon to come clean on how President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the border wall could potentially affect roughly $200 million worth of military construction projects in the Keystone State.
Casey, joined by every Democratic member of the state’s U.S. House delegation, sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan on Thursday, asking that he explain “the impact of this declaration, and, specifically, what dollars, if any, will be taken from appropriated Pennsylvania projects to fund border wall construction.”
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican who represents the Bucks County-based 1st Congressional District, also signed the letter.
The White House plans to shift about $3.6 billion in military construction funds to help pay for a wall along the southern border. But the White House has offered few concrete details, frustrating Democrats, according to The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress.
Trump’s decision to go around Congress, which rejected the White House’s request for $5.7 billion for the wall, “contravenes Congressional funding authority — an essential checks and balances power given to Congress in the Constitution — and circumvents the appropriations process,” Casey and his colleagues wrote.
The House voted 245-182 on Tuesday to approve a resolution nullifying Trump’s emergency declaration. It now goes to the Senate, where Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has said he’s undecided on how he might vote.
Casey’s letter runs down a list of three projects, totaling $200 million, that could potentially be affected by the emergency declaration.
They include $71 million for a “submarine propulsor manufacturing support” facility in Philadelphia; $85 million for Air Force Reserve projects in Pittsburgh benefiting the 911th Air Wing; and $8 million to replace an operations training facility and dining hall at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County.
Shifting money away from those projects “will have serious consequences for our military readiness and local economies, and set a dangerous precedent for Administrative overreach into Congressional powers,” the letter reads.
In a statement explaining his vote for the resolution, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, a former Marine, voiced similar concerns.
“The President can’t pay for this emergency, unless he takes money from other important projects like the new construction planned at our own reserve Air Force base in Moon Township,” in Allegheny County, Lamb wrote. “This $85 million project will create more than 200 jobs and have a $200 million impact on our local economy.”
In a briefing to Congress on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon tried to assure lawmakers that the Pentagon has no plans to cancel military construction projects that already have received Congressional authorization. But, he said, “some current military construction projects may be deferred,” according to The Hill. McMahon also said the White House’s 2020 budget proposal will “include a request for funds to replenish funding for these projects,” The Hill reported.
Read the full letter below: