NOW THAT President Trump has pillaged $3.6 billion in congressionally approved military construction funds to pay for part of his border wall, the collateral damage is becoming clear. That big update scheduled for the U.S. Military Academy’s engineering center? Gone. Five major hurricane-related repair projects on military bases in Puerto Rico? Not happening. Hundreds of millions of dollars to build and refurbish schools for American military children at U.S. facilities at home and overseas? Sorry, kids: Mr. Trump wants his wall — the one it turns out Mexico is not paying for.
The pain of Mr. Trump’s raid was felt even by Republicans, though the Pentagon’s building projects in their districts and states were ransacked to a somewhat lesser degree than those in Democratic areas, according to an analysis by Politico. Most took it stoically, while suggesting that Congress should now step up to replenish what the president had robbed.
Mr. Trump has justified his raid on military funds by citing what he calls a national emergency along the southern border — namely, illegal crossings by migrants from Central America. As it happens, those crossings have fallen by more than half since they spiked in May, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions. Still, if money appropriated by the legislative branch can be snatched away so cavalierly by the executive, what is to stop a Democratic president from invoking national security to redirect funds — from military bases or even, say, farm subsidies — to promote gun safety, or for some other favored policy?