If congressional Democrats will not agree to fund his border wall project, President Donald Trump has said he will turn to emergency powers to get the job done.
And according to the Portland Press Herald, he is also considering raiding the disaster relief funds allocated for areas like Puerto Rico and Texas, which have suffered devastating hurricanes.
The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to comb through its budget, including $13.9 billion in emergency funds that Congress earmarked last year, to see what money could be diverted to the wall as part of a declaration. That’s according to a congressional aide and administration official familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Nearly $14 billion in emergency disaster relief funds have been allocated but not yet obligated through contracts for a variety of projects in states including California, Florida and Texas and in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico that have been ravaged by recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, according to the aide familiar with the matter.
Democrats have essentially promised a legal challenge should Trump follow through with declaring a national emergency to get his wall, and they have accused the president of manufacturing a fake crisis on the southern U.S. border as justification for the move.
Critics have said the move would be an unconstitutional abuse of emergency powers. Trump said Thursday that his lawyers have told him he has the “absolute right.”
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have expressed concern over Trump’s consideration of using funds earmarked for disaster relief.
Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, a top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he has been hearing from lawmakers in recent days concerned that Army Corps projects in their states could be canceled or postponed.
“If they drag the money out of here,” Simpson said in an interview late Thursday, “a lot of members will have problem with it.”