WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is planning to shake the federal budget and use billions in Pentagon funds to build a barrier along the southern border under the national emergency declaration he issued Friday.
But the Trump administration has no immediate plans to raid the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget to fund barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Friday, the administration sketched out more than $6 billion Trump plans to take from the military budget and another $600 million from a U.S. Department of Justice forfeiture fund.
Despite numerous reports the White House was eyeing Corps of Engineers disaster funds, a senior administration official said those dollars are “not on the table currently.”
“You’ll notice what’s not on that list is taking away any of Puerto Rico's or Texas’ disaster relief money,” acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a Friday morning call with reporters. “That is not part of our plan.”
The Corps of Engineers fund set aside for disaster relief projects in Texas and Puerto Rico — both slammed by deadly hurricanes in 2017 — also includes about $1.4 billion for work in Louisiana, including the dollars to complete the long-sought Comite River Diversion Canal and the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project.
White House officials didn’t rule out touching Corps of Engineers funds at some point. But they outlined about $8 billion in potential funds they planned to use from elsewhere in the federal budget to put toward building Trump’s controversial proposed barrier.
Louisiana lawmakers, including members of Trump’s Republican Party, raised objections after multiple news organizations reported the Trump administration had discussed diverting dollars from that Corps of Engineers fund.
Trump’s national emergency declaration is almost certain to face numerous legal challenges and a potentially lengthy court battle.
Building a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border was a key Trump campaign pledge. The president once boasted that Mexico would foot the bill but has since struggled to secure enough money to start construction.
Trump had insisted for the last several months on receiving $5.7 billion from Congress to fund wall construction — including through a 35-day partial federal government shutdown — but received far less from lawmakers on Capitol Hill after Democrats refused to meet Trump’s demands.
Louisiana Republicans in Congress, who’ve supported Trump’s efforts, cheered Trump’s declaration on Friday.
Trump also apparently picked up on a funding idea Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, has pushed for months: using cash seized by federal prosecutors from Mexican drug cartels to fund wall construction.
The $600 million Trump plans to take from the Department of Justice forfeiture fund includes money taken from Mexican drug traffickers along with cash taken in other court proceedings.