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DeFazio Leads Floor Debate to End Trump’s Border Wall Emergency Declaration

Sep 27, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today led the floor debate for Democrats on S.J.Res. 54, A Joint Resolution Terminating President Trump’s Unlawful Emergency Declaration. The joint resolution would end the president’s emergency declaration of February 15, established to work around the Constitution and Congress to fund an ineffective border wall. The Senate passed the same resolution earlier this week by a vote of 54 to 41. The House and Senate passed a similar joint resolution earlier this year, that President Trump vetoed.

Under the emergency declaration on September 3, the Trump Administration announced a list of 127 military construction projects worth $3.6 billion that would be canceled to pay for construction of the wall.  A recent U.S. Air Force report also highlighted the security risks posed by the President’s cancellation of various Air Force military construction projects, including: 

  • Cancelling military construction for the European Defense Initiative, preventing our work to deter Russian aggression.
  • Cancelling maintenance at a key base in the Middle East to fix weaknesses that leave us open “to hostile penetration in the midst of contingency operations and an increased terrorist threat.”
  • Cancelling planned upgrades of airfields across Europe, leaving them unable to support U.S. and NATO planes.

A video of his opening statement can be found here, and a video of his closing statement can be found here. Following is DeFazio’s opening statement as prepared for delivery.

“Mr. Madam Speaker. Today, we will once again vote to terminate the president’s so-called national emergency declaration. This vote marks the third time this House will vote to terminate an emergency declaration that is nothing more than a power grab to fulfill a campaign promise and a complete disregard of our constitutional system of separation of powers.     

“While there is no doubt that our immigration system is broken and we have real issues at our southern border that require comprehensive, bipartisan action by this Congress, the president has relentlessly pursued an ineffective border wall that will waste billions of dollars and do very little for our national security.  Last year, when the Republican-controlled Congress rightly refused to appropriate funds for a border wall, President Trump shut down the government. At 35 days, this was the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history and forced more than 800,000 hard-working federal government employees and contractors to shoulder much of the burden. When he finally agreed to reopen the government by signing a short-term continuing resolution, he demanded lawmakers come up with a comprehensive border security proposal. And that’s exactly what we did.

“A bipartisan group delivered compromise legislation that rejected the president’s proposed border wall, and alternatively, made effective, robust investments in our border security. Congress overwhelmingly passed the legislation, and President Trump agreed to sign it. Then he issued a national emergency declaration in order to raid funds from other departments to secure funding for a border wall Congress has repeatedly voted against.

“Under the declaration, more than $8 billion has been diverted from various federal account to build the wall. And where is the president taking the funds necessary to pay for his wall? One area being raided is the Department of Defense’s (DoD) high-priority military construction projects. Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced that it must delay or suspend 127 military construction projects so that $3.6 billion can be diverted for the wall. This will undermine the training, readiness, and quality of life for our men and women in the Armed Forces. President Trump is also raiding $2.5 billion from the DoD’s drug interdiction program, significantly impacting our ability to combat the flow of illegal drugs. The president has railed about the need to stop drugs from getting into this country – cutting drug interdiction program funding hinders this critical work, all for an ineffective wall.

“The administration will also need to seize thousands of acres of private property by eminent domain to build the president’s wall. Currently, more than two thirds of border property needed to build the wall is owned by private parties or the relevant states. In 1952, the Supreme Court found that President Truman’s declaration of national emergency, even in the midst of an international armed conflict, did not permit him to unilaterally seize private property.

“While the president has used this national emergency declaration to move funding from unrelated departments and agencies, he has also inexplicably raided other critical, lifesaving agencies under the Department of Homeland Security. In August, the administration announced they were taking more than $270 million from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to put towards its immigration enforcement agenda. This is reckless and wrong.

“As Congress once again gears up to debate funding for the president’s wasteful, ineffective wall, this House must send a strong and clear message to the president that we live in a constitutional representative democracy, and the president and his administration cannot ignore Congress and existing law when they don’t like our actions. Yesterday, the Republican-controlled Senate once again passed a resolution to terminate this emergency declaration, with 11 Republican Senators breaking with the president. I urge this House to follow suit and send a strong, bipartisan message to the president in order to defend our constitutional system of separation of powers.”