The Pentagon announced Friday that it was canceling all southern border wall construction projects that had been paid for during the Trump Administration using funds designated for other military construction projects.
Deputy Pentagon Spokesman Jamal Brown said in a statement:
Consistent with the President’s proclamation, the Department of Defense is proceeding with canceling all border barrier construction projects paid for with funds originally intended for other military missions and functions such as schools for military children, overseas military construction projects in partner nations, and the National Guard and Reserve equipment account.
DoD has begun taking all necessary actions to cancel border barrier projects and to coordinate with interagency partners. Today’s action reflects this Administration’s continued commitment to defending our nation and supporting our service members and their families.
The Pentagon said any unobligated military construction funds will be used for deferred projects, which would be reviewed for prioritization.
However, it also said the department “will continue to work with its interagency partners regarding any additional steps that should be taken at construction sites affected by project cancellation,” though it is not clear whether border wall projects will continue using funds from other agencies.
The cancellation of border wall projects with military funds was long expected. President Joe Biden issued on his first day in office a proclamation to end the declaration of a national emergency at the southern border and ordered that “no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted” to construct the border wall begun under former President Donald Trump.
Trump had diverted about $10 billion from military construction accounts and counterdrug programs to construction of the border wall. That move did not require approval from Congress, since it was a shift within the military construction budget.
However, Republicans have argued that Biden does not have the authority to withhold congressionally-appropriated funding specifically appropriated for border wall construction, as he has ordered.
Former Trump administration lawyer Mark Paoletta told House Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) on Thursday that the Biden’s halting of funding to border wall construction violated the 1974 Impoundment Control Act (ICA), by withholding Congressionally-appropriated federal funding.
As Breitbart News’s Sean Moran reported, The ICA was enacted to prevent a president and other government officials from unilaterally substituting their own funding decisions from those of Congress, and instead requires Congress to pass a new law to rescind any remaining funds.
When asked if he believed Biden violated the Government Accountability Office standard of the ICA when he withheld funds for the border wall, Paoletta responded, “100 percent.”
Paoletta, who served as general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said during his testimony:
Biden’s hold is designed to thwart a lawfully enacted Congressional appropriation to build a border wall. Under GAO’s interpretation, this is clearly illegal. President Biden stated during the campaign that, if elected, ‘there will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.’ But Congress appropriated $1.4 billion last year specifically for the construction of the border wall. Nevertheless, on his first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order ordering the holding of all funds, and stating that building the wall was ‘not a serious policy solution . . . and a waste of money.’ Reports are that all funds are being held and construction has stopped.
The White House Press Secretary stated in February that the President ‘took formal steps to follow up on his Executive Order to end the declaration so that no more American tax dollars could be wasted on a border wall that does nothing to address or reform issues in our immigration system.’ In fact, in President Biden’s FY22 ‘Discretionary Request,’ President Biden proposes to rescind the very wall money that he is currently holding. President Biden has not sent up any deferral or rescission special message to Congress, as required by the ICA. It appears that the Administration is now intentionally under-executing congressionally appropriated funding in order to later rescind it.
Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) said during the hearing the migrant crisis that arose less than 100 days into Biden’s administration partly came from Biden’s freezing of border wall funding.
“This is a real crisis that we’re dealing with as a result of what I think is an illegal action by the president, freezing the congressionally appropriated funds, funding for the construction on the southern border wall,” Smucker said.