White House directs Army Corps of Engineers to look at ways to fund border security

As reported by FoxNews

The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to “look at possible ways of funding border security,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Thursday night, as the ongoing partial federal government shutdown over money for a border wall is less than two days away from becoming the longest in the nation’s history.

Separately, Fox News is told the White House directed the Corps to examine the February 2018 emergency supplemental, which included disaster relief for California, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, among other states, to see what unspent funds could be diverted to a border wall, according to a congressional aide familiar with the matter.

Such a move still could require the president to declare a national emergency in order to access those funds to build a wall, because they were earmarked for a different purpose. The discussions with the Corps suggest the White House is closely looking at the possibility of declaring such an emergency, as Trump has floated repeatedly in recent days.

Sanders said Trump has not met with the Corps to discuss the matter.

Approximately $13.9 billion is available from the congressionally approved February 2018 supplemental spending bill, intended to cover natural disasters, and much of the available money comes from flood control projects, Fox News is told. The Military Construction appropriations bill could provide additional funding in the event of an emergency declaration.

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President Donald Trump speaking at the U.S. border with Mexico at the Rio Grande on the southern border Thursday as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, listened. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Earlier Thursday, Trump told reporters, “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency” and that, “if this doesn’t work out…I would almost say definitely.”

The president, before and after his election, promised that Mexico “is going to pay for the wall.” On Thursday, Trump — reiterating a familiar argument in recent weeks — said the favorable trade terms in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), signed last year but not yet law in the U.S., effectively fund the wall and fulfill that promise.

“When I say Mexico’s gonna pay for the wall — do you think they’re going to write a check?” Trump asked. “No, they’re paying for the wall in a great trade deal.”

Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, speaking at a news conference after President Trump’s visit to McAllen, Texas, later in the day, charged that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was to blame for the partial shutdown and that no compromise seemed likely as a result.

“I think the president came down, number one, to listen — to listen to law enforcement, to listen to Border Patrol — but also to highlight the need for border security,” Cruz told reporters. “Border security used to be in Washington an area where you find bipartisan agreement. It still is in Texas. Unfortunately, in Washington, we’re in a different environment.”

Cruz added: “The objection of Senate Democrats’ to the president’s proposal is not a substantive objection. “This was $5.7 billion for border security, including a physical barrier. Both Schumer and virtually all of the Senate Democrats preivously voted for $40 billion for border security, including a physical barrier.”