President Trump is reportedly considering tapping into disaster funds to fund his border wall, including money reserved for Puerto Rico.
A funding source opens up
The President has been briefed on a plan to use $13.9 billion and the Army Corps of Engineers to build the wall, presumably after declaring a national emergency. The Pentagon, as we reported earlier, is drawing up plans to construct a wall in anticipation of a declared emergency. (RELATED: Pentagon Prepping to Build Border Wall Should Trump Declare Emergency.)
President Trump will still need to finance the wall construction. To do so, he’s been demanding $5.7 billion from congressional Democrats, who have opposed the plan all along.
With Democrats refusing to fund the wall, Trump is seeking out ways to build it unilaterally. One source of funding is emergency-relief funds, which were set aside to help reconstruct Puerto Rico and other storm-torn areas. NBC reports: “The money was set aside to fund projects all over the country including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020, but the checks have not been written yet and, under an emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, said officials familiar with the briefing and two congressional sources.”
JUST IN: President Trump has been briefed on a plan that would use funds set aside for projects, including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico, to build 315 miles of barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, @NBCNews reports. https://t.co/8eSuu9Dpak
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) January 10, 2019
The AP notes that this money has already been approved by Congress. Democrats thus have little recourse if they wish to withdraw it. At most, they can appeal to the court system to stop it, or being impeachment proceedings.
An emergency is an emergency
Given that these funds were set aside for emergency purposes, Trump declaring a national emergency would justify using the funds to construct the wall. The only problems are obvious: optics and legal challenges.
It’s still undetermined if Trump has the legal authority to use his national-emergency powers to build a border wall. The courts will have to sort that out.
Trump should also be aware of the optics of taking money designated for Puerto Rico and using it to construct a wall along the Mexican border. That might not play over well with those of Puerto Rican descent.
Then again, failing to build the wall before election day in 2020 won’t play over well with any would-be Trump voters.