By Jon Dougherty, editor-in-chief for The National Sentinel
The clock is ticking on the 21-day stopgap funding measure Congress passed and POTUS Donald Trump signed to reopen government a week ago, but it doesn’t look like he’s any closer to getting the House to pass a measure providing him with his requested border wall funding.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has doubled and now tripled down on a pledge not to provide a penny of funding for new physical border barriers despite the fact that some members of her party would support such fundind and the Border Patrol has said new barriers are needed.
As reported by The Associated Press:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there will be no money for President Donald Trump’s border wall in any deal to keep the government open past a Feb. 15 deadline.
A bipartisan group of House-Senate negotiators met for the first time Wednesday, and Pelosi addressed the issue at a session with reporters on Thursday. The California Democrat said she wants to see the negotiators’ bipartisan bill by next Friday.
She told a news conference: “There will not be any wall money in the legislation.”
For his part, POTUS Trump told The New York Times in an interview published Friday that Pelosi is putting the Left-wing extremist faction of her party ahead of what’s best for Americans, while also hinting at his next action.
“I think Nancy Pelosi is hurting our country very badly by doing what’s she doing and, ultimately, I think I’ve set the table very nicely. … I’ve set the table. I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do,” he said.
Many analysts believe that means he’s set to declare a national emergency to secure the funds in order to begin construction on new segments of border wall, a declaration that will likely face a legal challenge.
But there is another way for POTUS to get his funding and it, too, bypasses an obstructionist House Speaker.
In congressional testimony this week that wasn’t widely reported, a top Defense Department official told lawmakers that the president can use existing law — and DoD funding — to begin building portions of a border wall without even a declaration of national emergency, The Western Journal reported.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) raised the issue with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood during his appearance before the House Armed Services Committee.
Citing Title 10, Section 284 of the U.S. Code, which grants authority to the Pentagon for providing support for counter-drug operations if requested by appropriate state and federal agencies.
The law provides for the “construction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States.”
After noting that the Defense Department, via the National Guard and other entities, has been providing counter-drug support to states for decades, Rood noted, “As you correctly point out, Section 284 of Title 10 does provide the secretary of defense the authority, in performance of that counter-drug mission, such as blocking drug smuggling corridors, to erect barrier fencing, provide road construction, things of that nature, to aid in that counter-narcotics mission.”
“So you’re saying that Congress has authorized the Department of Defense to build a fence to counter drugs? That is already law?” Hartlzer said in a follow-up questions.
“Yes, that’s right, if it meets that criteria in Section 284, yes ma’am,” Rood responded.
At that point, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama noted, “It seems to me that 10 U.S. Code 284 can be used by the president of the United States to direct the U.S. military to build a wall.”
“You are correct, however, that that use of authority would authorize the secretary of defense to erect barriers, roads, fencing, those type of materials, to disrupt drug smuggling,” Rood noted.
“Does 10 U.S.C. 284, as you understand it, require the declaration of a national emergency before it is implemented?” Brooks asked.
“No,” Rood responded.
“Has President Trump, to your knowledge, ever used 10 U.S.C. 284 to direct the military to build the wall that is necessary for border security?” Brooks continued.
“No, not to my knowledge, congressman,” Rood said.
“If President Trump were to direct the Pentagon, the United States military, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 284 to build such barriers as are necessary to secure our Southern border from drug trafficking and international crime cartels, would the United States military obey that order?” Brooks asked.
“If we judge it to be a lawful order, yes, sir,” Rood replied. “And I assume it would be.”
It’s worth mentioning that during his speech announcing he was signing the 21-day stopgap funding measure, POTUS Trump spent time referencing the menacing drug smuggling problem and how it was negatively impacting the country.
“Vast quantities of lethal drugs — including meth, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine — are smuggled across our southern border and into U.S. schools and communities. Drugs kill much more than 70,000 Americans a year and cost our society in excess of $700 billion,” he said.
“As commander in chief, my highest priority is the defense of our great country.” the president contended. “We cannot surrender operational control over the nation’s borders to foreign cartels, traffickers, and smugglers.”