The president’s chief of staff told Fox News the president could circumvent obstructionist Democrats and legally fund his border barrier with existing revenues, all without Congressional approval. It must be shocking for taxpayers to learn the federal government allegedly has billions in budgetary wiggle room.
On the heels of another congressional “deal” that fails to provide adequate funding for border security construction, Americans are rightfully frustrated by Congress’ failure to deliver real solutions. But comments from President Trump’s administration make clear other funding options exist to pay for his proposal.
Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday the administration is committed to moving forward with construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, with or without Congress.
“The president is going to build the wall,” Mulvaney said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “Our attitude at this point is we will take as much money as you can give us and then we will go find money someplace else legally in order to secure that southern barrier, but this is going to get built with or without Congress.”
Mulvaney, who also heads the Office of Management and Budget, said the Trump administration could legally “reprogram” existing funds already given to the Executive Branch. Unlike transfers within or between agencies, which require explicit statutory authority, the reprogramming of funds is generally permitted unless laws otherwise restrict such actions. And an agency may not reprogram funds if doing so would violate any other laws.
In simple terms, the administration claims they could legally redirect billions currently slated for non-essential military operations (such as the construction of additional troop housing at a military base in Germany) and redirect them to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction of the wall. Assuming this application of reprogramming is legal, it could happen without an emergency declaration.
Although a gargantuan sum by itself, Trump’s proposal of $5.7 billion is only a tiny sliver of the federal budget – only 0.1% – which now exceeds $4.1 trillion. It’s also a small sliver when compared to executive agency spending. In total, executive agencies will spend roughly $3.5 trillion this year alone, meaning the Trump admin only has to find lesser priorities equaling 0.16% of total executive agency spending to redirect.
That shouldn’t be too difficult.
It raises the question: Why hasn’t the Trump administration acted yet? With so many billions allegedly swishing around inside federal government coffers, taxpayers should be concerned with how much more wiggle room supposedly exists for “reprogramming,” which could otherwise be spent on “essential” needs or returned to taxpaying families.
From a political perspective, fewer issues are more important to voters in 2020 than Trump and other Republicans demonstrating they will keep their word. Should they fail to deliver upon promises made, Republicans risk Trump’s border promise going down in history like one-term President George H. W. Bush’s commitment not to raise taxes.
Democrats know this, which is why they’re pulling out all the stops to deny Trump a win on one of his core campaign promises.