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CHC Chair Offers Amendment to Safeguard Defense Funding

Jul 14, 2017
Press Release
No Defense Dollars for President Trump’s Immoral, Ineffective Wall
Washington, D.C. – Before the final vote of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered the following remarks as part of a Motion to Recommit (MTR). If adopted, the measure would have restored a bipartisan amendment that prevented Department of Defense dollars from being used to build President Trump’s border wall. The amendment was not adopted in a straight party line vote:
 
Mr./Madam Speaker, this is the final amendment to the bill which will not kill the bill or send it back to committee. If adopted, the bill will immediately proceed to final passage as amended.
 
The National Defense Authorization Act has passed Congress 56 years in a row and that is a testament to the collaborative, bi-partisan work the Armed Services Committee has done to support our troops who put themselves in harm’s way every single day to defend our country.
 
This year, the House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment introduced by Congressman Gallego to ensure that none of the funds meant to support our troops and safeguard our nation’s security can be used for building President Trump’s border wall.
 
The amendment was debated, amended, and ultimately adopted without objection by every single member of the Armed Services Committee.
 
If you ask the people who know the border the best, whether it’s companies, lawmakers, border communities, trade groups, economists, or law enforcement officials—both Republicans and Democrats—most agree that building a wall is unnecessary, impractical, ineffective, and a complete waste of time and taxpayer money.
 
Furthermore, the United States already maintains approximately 650 miles of border fence in areas that most effectively stop the unauthorized entry of people, vehicles, drugs, arms, and illicit items.
 
Instead of a costly border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the Armed Services Committee chose to fully fund military health care, raise the pay of military personnel, and improve our nation’s cybersecurity.
 
They agreed that President Trump’s on-going effort to build a wall is wasteful and has absolutely nothing to do with advancing U.S. national security interests.
 
And I want to emphasize, this amendment incorporated both Democratic and Republican ideas and passed unanimously in a bi-partisan manner.
 
But late Tuesday night, House Republican leadership stripped Congressman Gallego’s amendment from the NDAA with the use of a glaringly undemocratic, procedural gimmick to help Trump fulfill his campaign promise.
 
Republican leadership’s actions to unilaterally open the door for funding the wall through the use of this defense bill is an insult to every single member of the Armed Services Committee, to our democratic principles, and to the spirit of bipartisanship.
 
They chose to undermine the unanimous judgement of the Armed Services Committee without the courage to test their proposal with a vote or even debate on this Floor.
 
You may hear my colleague on the other side of the aisle claim that prohibiting the construction of the wall doesn’t fall within the jurisdiction of the Defense Department.
 
However, I’m not sure why the 8 members of the Rules Committee believe that they are more qualified to judge what should be included in the NDAA than the 61 members of the Armed Services Committee or the 435 members of this deliberative body as a whole.
 
Further, I’m not sure why the Rules Committee thought that a discriminatory amendment preventing the Department of Defense from providing medically-necessary health care services to transgendered military personnel was more appropriate for debate than preventing Trump from usurping funds intended for our troops.
 
You may also hear my Republican colleague claim that President Trump can’t use any funds in the NDAA to start construction of the wall any way.
 
But that’s not true!  Under Title 10, the Secretary of Defense could transfer funding for that purpose this afternoon if he wanted—all without approval of Congress.
 
Mr. Speaker, the only way this body can guarantee that Trump cannot use DOD funds to construct his border wall is to put that prohibition in the bill explicitly.
 
And the only way we can do that is by passing my motion to recommit to restore Congressman Gallego’s bipartisan amendment in the bill and ensure that our troops aren’t robbed to pay for a border wall.
 
But, I want to be clear:  The adoption of this amendment will not prevent passage of the underlying bill.

If the amendment is adopted, it will be incorporated into the bill, and the bill will be immediately voted upon.

We all have an opportunity to stand united and support our nation’s service-members and protect hard-earned tax-payer dollars from the President’s political pipedream.

I urge my colleagues to support my final amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.
 
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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.
 
Media Contact:
Carlos Paz Jr.
202-525-0053