Tester plans amendment to block president from raiding funds for border wall

During his border tour in March, Sen. Jon Tester (center), met with Customs and Border protection officials, along with local farmers and ranchers. He also toured two ports of entry and visited the nation’s largest immigration processing center McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Sen. Jon Tester this week introduced an amendment aimed at blocking President Donald Trump’s plans to take money from the military budget to pay for a wall on the southern U.S. Border.

Tester, who has said that technology is better suited to secure the border than a physical wall, plans to attach his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Senate will debate the defense bill this week.

“President Trump is raiding our defense budget in order to pay for his southern border wall,” Tester said in a statement. “He’s gutting funding for mission-critical projects, including sorely needed upgrades to our nation’s ground-based nuclear missiles, and he’s targeting critical infrastructure projects at both Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard.”

The Senate rejected Trump’s declaration of an emergency earlier this year, though the president is moving forward with plans to move $3.6 billion from the Defense Department and its military construction budget to fund the wall.

Tester said those plans would gut funding for the Minuteman III Launch Control Block Upgrades Program and put Montana’s Missile Maintenance Dispatch Facility and its new C-130 apron at risk.

“Instead of bringing our most powerful means of defense into the 21st Century, the president wants to build a Medieval border wall,” Tester said. “It’s time for Congress to intervene or risk a huge blow to our military readiness.”

In a letter to the acting Secretary of Defense, tester called the DoD’s reprogramming proposal “inconceivable” and “inconsistent with [our] national security priorities.”

Tester’s amendment would limit the amount of funding a president can reallocate from the military construction budget under a national emergency declaration. It would also require the White House to provide additional justification for the use of the armed forces in response to declared national emergencies.

After touring the southern border in March, Tester planned to push for the better use of technology and manpower to enhance security over a wall he deemed as costly and unnecessary.

“It’s very obvious we need to use every tool in our tool box, whether it’s technology, manpower or fencing where it makes sense,” Tester said during an interview. “We need to take a look at some of our existing laws and take a closer look at where the money Congress has already appropriated went.”