Vice Chairman Leahy Statement On The Motion To Instruct Conferees For The National Defense Authorization Act

Today, the Senate will vote on the motion to instruct conferees for the National Defense Authorization Act to backfill the military construction money the President stole from our troops to pay for his wall. 

As the Dean of the Senate, and President Pro Tempore Emeritus, I no doubt have supported, and voted for, more funding for our military and their families than any other member of this chamber.    

As members of the Senate – there are only 100 of us to represent all 330 million Americans – we have a profound responsibility to support those who sacrifice everything for our country.  From the soldier we have sent across the globe to the military family left at home, we – all 100 of us – have a responsibility to these men and women regardless of our politics and our ideology, and it is that responsibility that has drawn me to the Senate Floor today.  I cannot, and will not, support this motion. 

Six-point-one billion.  I am going to say that again.  $6.1 billion dollars -- $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense and $3.6 from military construction projects.  That is how much money President Trump has stolen from the women and men of our military in fiscal year 2019 alone to pay for his ineffective, vanity wall – a wall that last week he boasted to reporters was the “Rolls-Royce” of walls.  But just like a Rolls-Royce in the middle of the desert, Trump’s wall is nothing more than outrageously expensive and completely useless.  Experts agree a wall will do nothing to address the humanitarian crisis along our southern border.  Families fleeing violence in their home countries are openly turning themselves over to border patrol officials, not absconding across the border in the middle of the night. 

So, what has $6.1 billion in stolen funds purchased for the American taxpayer?  Children continuing to go to a middle school in Kentucky every day that Pentagon officials have described as “deficient, inadequate, and undersized.”  Buildings that do not meet the military’s standard for fire safety or management of explosives putting American lives at risk.  Numerous cases of infrastructure problems that are detrimental to our military’s readiness and the DoD’s national security mission.  This is not to mention military housing with mold issues, inadequate daycare facilities for the children of military families, and all of the 127 military construction projects president Trump cancelled – not delayed – to pay for his wall.  

$6.1 billion for a Roll’s-Royce in the middle of the desert and an even heavier burden for our military families to bear.  Outraged does not even begin to describe how I feel about President Trump’s actions.  

Today, we are being asked to cover up this theft.  We are being asked to give our Constitutional blessing to President Trump contorting the law beyond recognition.  Contorting the law to undo congressional funding decisions by fiat.  I will not stand for that.

We are being asked to take the first step to approve $3.6 billion in emergency spending to replace part of what President Trump stole.  Now, let’s make another thing clear, this spending is on top of the discretionary caps agreed to by Congress and the President.  So we are being asked to finance this cover-up on our children and grandchildren through deficit spending. 

Mr. President, I believe you said Mexico was going to pay for your wall, not our troops, not their families, and not future generations of American citizens. 

If all of this were not troubling enough, last week the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration does not intend to even use this funding to replace what they stole.  And I quote:  “The plan is to sell it as replenishment money for the Defense Department for the $3.6 billion they took this year,” said one administration official.  “Then once they got it from Congress, they would take it again.”

What is the saying?  Fool Congress once shame on you, Mr. President?  Fool Congress twice, Shame. On. Us.

Politicians often wax poetic about their love of our troops.  And yet, this body has done nothing to constrain this President’s ability to continue to steal from those troops.  We have done little more than shrug at this abuse of our constitutional authority.  We have just looked away from this egregious treatment of our troops as little more than a piggy bank for the President’s political, pet project. 

I will not stand for it.  I will not abandon our profound responsibility to support those who sacrifice everything for our country. 

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-224-2667