Senate Dems introduce bill to block Trump from using military funds to build wall

By:  Jordain Carney

Senate Democrats introduced legislation on Monday to prevent President Trump from using military and disaster relief funds to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall should he declare a national emergency.

The legislation would prevent Trump from using funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works funds and military construction funding "for the construction of barriers, land acquisition, or any other associated activities on the southern border without specific statutory authorization from Congress" if he declared a national emergency.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said that while an emergency declaration to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall would be challenged in court, "Congress should not wait for the courts to act."

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) added that the bill would "prevent funds designated for critical military construction and disaster response" from being used to build the wall in the event Trump declares a national emergency.

Democrats estimate that approximately $35 billion from the fiscal 2018 funding cycle is "subject to raiding"—being repurposed for constructing the border wall — including money for disaster relief and military construction projects.

More than a dozen Democrats, including Udall and Heinrich, introduced the Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-appropriations Act. Among the RAIDER Act's supporters are Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who are both running for the party's 2020 nomination.

Trump has kept the option of declaring a national emergency to construct the wall on the table despite pushback from Congress.

He hinted last week that he could tip his hand during Tuesday night's State of the Union address about his plans, telling reporters to "listen closely."

“I think there’s a good chance we’ll have to do that,” Trump told reportersat the White House on Friday. 

If Trump declared a national emergency, Congress could try to pass a resolution of disapproval to block the action. Lawmakers in both parties have also predicted a lengthy court battle that would almost immediately delay action on the border wall.