In a post late last night about the tentative agreement between congressional Republicans and Democrats on border security, I discussed some of President Trump’s options if/when the deal becomes final. However, I omitted one option. Ed Morrissey notes that Trump might “redirect money from DHS to build more border barriers, which might not require an emergency declaration.”
Nancy Cook and Eliana Johnson discuss this option in an article for Politico. They write:
The White House is firming up plans to redirect unspent federal dollars as a way of funding President Donald Trump’s border wall without taking the dramatic step of invoking a national emergency.
Done by executive order, this plan would allow the White House to shift money from different budgetary accounts without congressional approval, circumventing Democrats who refuse to give Trump anything like the $5.7 billion he has demanded. Nor would it require a controversial emergency declaration.
The idea, being pushed by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, is to “shift money from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in Northern California, as well as from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico.” In addition, “the plan will tap unspent Department of Defense funds for military construction, like family housing or infrastructure for military bases.”
The problem, as Cook and Johnson say, is that this approach, like declaring an emergency, would also be vulnerable to court challenge. Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller reportedly has argued that it might be even more vulnerable to court challenges than a national emergency declaration. .
The moving-funds-around option would entail spending money allocated by Congress to some parts of the country — e.g. California — in different parts of the country — e.g. Texas. It would shortchange victims of disasters in California and Puerto Rico. As described by Cook and Johnson, it would also shortchange military families.
Thus, this approach is hardly without legal and political difficulties. Add it to the list of the president’s not-so-good options.