WASHINGTON — The political world has been dominated this week by speculation about whether President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency in order to reprogram approximately $5.7 billion of federal funds from other purposes to the construction of some part of a border wall or barrier along the country’s international border with Mexico.
At the end of the week, Trump seemed to back off a little by arguing that using a national emergency to build the wall would be the easy way out, compared with Congress merely doing its job and funding the wall directly in the normal way. Trump emphasized that he views a national emergency route as the last resort.
Yet Democrat Members of Congress are in a “hostage” crisis, beholden to the far-left, post-rationality crazy wing of the Democrat Party. When you watch Democrat lawmakers speak on TV, watch for eye blink messages in Morse code such as “S.O.S.” or “I am a hostage.” As a result of the intense, logic-free emotional outrage on the Left, the Democrats are not free to make an intelligent decision.
So we will end up with Trump declaring a national emergency and reprogramming funds to build a border wall, this author predicts.
How could this unfold, in practical details? What and how could Trump actually do to make this happen?
We should note that reprogramming funds happens all the time even without a declared emergency. Somewhere in the federal government, at least once this month probably several times each month, appropriated federal funds will be “reprogrammed” from one purpose to a different purpose than voted on by Congress. This is routine, but it is not simple.
Let’s say Congress votes for a research project, but then the company goes out of business and no longer exists. The federal agency would then repurpose those funds. The rules can be very complicated. Reprogramming depends upon the wording of each appropriation bill for the individual department or agency, on the regulations and laws previously enacted for that department or agency, the type of repurposing, and the circumstances. A national emergency is simply one basis for reprogramming funds. But it is a VERY powerful basis for doing so.
It is important to be specific. Different parts of the work and different sections of the border may come under different considerations and analysis. What does it take to build a barrier along the international border with a foreign country? Think about the steps involved. Some of those steps are strongly military in nature.
Various stages in the construction process might be funded in different ways. This author strongly recommends that Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have Texas take — by eminent domain — an easement along the border. That would make any landowners’ disputes a purely State matter in Texas courts, not a federal matter in the Ninth Circuit.
The various steps of clearing a strip of land maybe 1,000 feet wide, building an access road (where it does not exist already), moving in construction equipment, moving in mobile trailers for temporary housing for workers, moving in food, water and supplies for workers — these might all be funded in different ways from different funds similar to those purposes.
If you think about the different steps involved in the project — considering that it is actually our international border — there are various sources of funds to carry out various parts of the project. That is, there are many aspects of the project that should be done even if the final goal were not a border wall. So there are sources of fund that are not strictly-speaking limited to a border wall per se.
FOR EXAMPLE: President Trump could — right now — order the Defense Mapping Agency and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency within DoD and the U.S. Geological Survey within the U.S. Department of Interior to complete a comprehensive analysis and study of every mile of the border (much of that work is of course already done but it would be compiled into a total plan). In fact, when it comes to compiling existing information, the U.S. Senate could require the Congressional Research Service to obtain and compile a comprehensive analysis of the entire border. A complete survey using LANDSAT satellite imagery would be useful. None of that would require any new, specific “border wall” funding. Those would all be appropriate studies to manage the border whether or not a border wall is built.
If Trump as Commander in Chief orders the military to the border, he can order them to clear and prepare the strip of land along the border, such as maybe 1,000 to 2,500 feet wide or more. The military as part of their deployment could move in mobile trailers for housing, equipment to manage the land, etc. like earth-moving equipment, freight trucks, etc.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could construct some or all of the border wall or prepare for its construction, including out of its own budget. Again, this is our international border. It needs to be managed regardless of whether or not a border wall is the end result.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could do all of the work itself — or contract with one or more construction companies.
Third, as a further example, the border wall plans include constructing a 30-foot barrier along nearly 32 miles of the Air Force’s Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range near Yuma, Arizona. A bombing range is an extremely dangerous place, yet illegal aliens and drug traffickers cross the border in large numbers in that area. If it is a proper military function to train pilots with practice bombing at a bombing range, a wall or barrier to make sure that civilians don’t wander into a bombing range is a necessary component of operating a military bombing range. Frankly, a 10 to 20 mile extra barrier on either side (50 to 60 miles total) would be a prudent military construction project to minimize the chance of trespassers wandering around inside of Arizona and wandering into the bombing range.
Furthermore, if spies can cross the border, they can spy on the capabilities and accuracy of the U.S. Air Force. That includes surveillance of electronic signals which can be much more dangerous in warfare than most people realize, including for decrypting coded messages, enemy airplanes falsely mimicking U.S. aircraft, and detecting U.S. aircraft. Terrorists could enter and use shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles against military airplanes operating in the bombing range, and then flee back across the border. Therefore, funding of a border wall along the bombing range territory could come under different funding and different legal analyses.
That is, this section would not require special “border wall” funding but should be a normal part of military construction to operate the bombing range.
Fourth, there is “talk” (what we used to call gossip) that Trump could reprogram emergency construction funds meant to rebuild Puerto Rico after the damage from hurricane Maria and parts of Texas after the damage from hurricane Harvey.
This would be unfortunate because (a) it would give Puerto Rico “standing” to bring a lawsuit and slow the process down, and (b) it would just look and feel really bad. (I am assuming that Texas would not sue.)
On the other hand, the money is still there unused because Puerto Rico was already a mess before the hurricane hit and cannot get organized to make use of all of these funds now. It would be a mistake to think that Puerto Rico would not get its reconstruction money eventually. Congress — led by Trump and Senate Republicans — could appropriate future money for Puerto Rico as additional appropriations.
Trump could even take the funds (or any other funds) now, since the funds are not actually being used right now, and then later restore those funds from savings from reducing illegal immigration or other sources. But no doubt Puerto Rico will get its money somehow. Still, it would be far better for Trump to find money elsewhere instead.
FUNDS SEIZED FROM DRUG DEALERS
Finally, many conservatives are intensely enthusiastic about using funds seized from drug dealers to fund the border wall. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) is arguing that the government seizes about $4 billion per year from criminals, and its use is already authorized for law enforcement purposes. Even comments from Democrat Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) on Fox News Saturday showed an open mind towards such an idea. Rep. Garamendi merely warned that some of that money has already been spoken for to help law enforcement, so only some of it remains available. But Democrat Garamendi didn’t hate the idea.
But despite the intense activism for using these funds, one has to ask: You mean I have to choose? Why can’t we try both simultaneously? Especially where the goal is to put the squeeze on open borders activists and show that the wall is going to happen one way or another, especially when the only wild card is lawsuits, why should Trump limit himself? Why not try everything?
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