02.20.2020 0

Retiring GOP Representative Mac Thornberry goes full Pelosi on wall funding reprogramming he voted for

By Rick Manning

What a bunch of frauds.

Ranking House Republican on the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) joined Democrats in attacking President Trump’s choice to move $3.8 billion within the Defense Department approved spending from weapons programs into the counter-drug fund with the intention of using these monies for additional wall funding on the southern border.

The Hill reports that the soon to be retired Thornberry claimed, “The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action. I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take.”

Thornberry continued with the incredible charge that the reprogramming plan, “undermines the principle of civilian control of the military and is in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution.”

To begin to deconstruct the absurdity of Thornberry’s comments, one must understand that in 2017, President Trump’s first year in office, the Defense Budget for military projects was $568.9 billion, rising to $600 billion, $683 billion in 2018, $653.9 in 2019 and to a projected $689.6 billion in 2020.  A massive increase over the first three years of the Trump presidency – an increase of $85 billion in just three years.  The $3.8 billion that the President is planning to move represents about two-thirds of 1 percent of the DoD funding for 2019.

What’s more, Congress chose not to prevent the shifting of funds within the Pentagon to accommodate additional funding for the wall on the southern border, during the appropriations process with full knowledge that the Supreme Court had allowed the transfer of funds for the same purpose just a few months earlier by including the same exact language as before that allowed the transfer to take place.

This simple fact makes the Thornberry separation of powers argument almost laughable on its face, but what makes it particularly embarrassing for House Armed Services Committee ranking member is that he voted in favor of the legislation which funded the Pentagon without the prohibitions that he now wants to imagine into it.

The law Thornberry voted for explicitly provides for reprogramming the funds, stating in part in Division A, Title VIII, Section 8005 “Upon determination by the Secretary of Defense that such action is necessary in the national interest, he may, with the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, transfer not to exceed $4,000,000,000 of working capital funds of the Department of Defense or funds made available in this Act to the Department of Defense for military functions (except military construction) between such appropriations or funds or any subdivision thereof, to be merged with and to be available for the same purposes, and for the same time period, as the appropriation or fund to which transferred…” Maybe read the bill next time?

To be fair, the legal question is still technically pending after the Supreme Court stayed an injunction by a district court against transferring the monies on the grounds that the party lacked standing to bring the complaint. The effect of the stay was to allow the funds, $2.5 billion, to be transferred and spent on the wall. The transfer authority is clear in the law, and so it becomes a political question with which the executive branch has discretion when a determination is made that expanding the border wall is in the national interest. Congress authorized that discretion.

And in response to Thornberry’s almost crazy idea that the shifting of the funds undermines the Constitutional requirement of civilian control over the Pentagon, perhaps the 23 years spent in the swamp has impacted the former House Armed Services Committees basic reasoning capacity, but even his lowliest press staffer should be able to follow this logical syllogism.  The President is the Commander and Chief of the military.  The President is a civilian.  Hence, the President taking the step to shift resources to better meet the nation’s security needs is the essence of “civilian control” of the military.

While it may seem unfair to pick on Representative Thornberry over his poorly thought out complaints to the media, it cannot be lost that it is the House Republicans who have pushed hard for massive increases in defense spending over the past half-decade, breaking the budget sequestration deal with the Democrats in order to dramatically plus-up Pentagon spending.  In exchange for increased military spending, the Democrats demanded increases in non-defense discretionary spending be added to the baseline budget, whether it was needed or not.

This mutually agreed upon spending escalation has been a primary driver, along with increased mandatory spending, of the expanding budget deficit which Democrats seek to blame on the President. Democrats play this blame Trump game even as they and their conjoined defense hawk spending pigs keep adding more and more money to the appropriated spending bills, acting as if we are flush with cash rather than $23 trillion in the hole.

The alleged rationale for massive Defense increases has been the need to meet our national security needs around the world which presumably includes at our own border.  The idea that a GOP Congressman from Texas doesn’t understand the challenges of an unsecured border when an Iraqi Al Qaeda leader had been arrested in Arizona just a few short weeks before is beyond absurd.  And while Thornberry represents the northern-most district in the state, the fact remains that Texas is a border state increasingly vulnerable due to its long, difficult to manage 1,241 shared miles with Mexico.

President Trump promised and has fought to secure the southern border, and it is unfortunate that in his last year in Congress, Mac Thornberry has chosen a fight that benefits the Beltway Bandits at the expense of our national security.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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