Washington • Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, said Tuesday he wasn’t concerned that President Donald Trump was once again going to siphon money from military projects and counternarcotics efforts to pay for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, laying the blame on Democratic “jerks” who refuse to fund border security.
Bishop said money taken from the Pentagon that had been slated for military construction would ultimately be “replenished” as with funds Trump funneled to the border last year over Congress’ objections.
But was Bishop concerned about the money switch?
“Yeah, because the other jerks over here should have put the money in for the wall in the first place,” Bishop said outside the House chamber, motioning toward the Democratic side. “And that would solve the problem. They used to be for that all the time. All of a sudden now they're against it.”
The Washington Post reported this week that the White House was looking to tap $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to build the wall Trump had promised voters in his 2016 campaign would be paid for by Mexico. Part of that money would come from anti-drug efforts and part from planned military projects.
It was unclear if those projects would include any from Utah, though last year when Trump diverted $3.7 billion in Pentagon money it delayed about $54 million in construction slated for Hill Air Force Base, one of Utah’s largest employers.
Bishop, a nine-term Republican who is not seeking reelection, said no one should be worried about moving pots of money because “eventually it will come back there” to planned military projects.
“But yeah it’s an issue because they should have funded the wall in the first place,” he said. “Jerks.”
Trump had vetoed a resolution backed by the House and Senate last year attempting to overturn moving Pentagon money to the border.
Bishop and GOP Reps. John Curtis and Chris Stewart sided with most Republicans to support Trump while Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, both Utah Republicans, voted to support that measure.
Lee declined to comment Tuesday at the Capitol saying he was late for a GOP caucus meeting and his office said it wouldn't comment until the proposal was made public by the White House.
Romney said in an interview that he doesn’t want Trump to take money from military construction projects but that he does back more wall construction along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“I’ve been on the record on that … I would prefer there to be direct appropriations to build the wall,” Romney said. “I do support building the wall, but I would prefer funds not being diverted from military projects that have been appropriated by Congress.”
Romney said the president's move could hurt some military projects though without details, he couldn't comment further.
Curtis, too, said he wasn't aware of the White House's plans and wasn't sure how it could affect Utah until the announcement is made.
But he agreed that plucking congressionally directed money from the Pentagon for another use wasn't optimal.
“Not ideally, no,” he said.
However, Curtis added that Congress needs to step up to fund border protection even beyond the wall Trump has promised.
“One of the biggest problems that we have as a country is we're not investing in the border now,” Curtis said. “That is not just infrastructure and barriers, that's in facilities; that's in the judges; that's in technology. And so I'm very concerned that overall we have not made the types of investments that we need.”
The Post reported that the Trump administration has built 101 miles of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border, far less than the 450 miles he had promised.
A federal judge had ruled the administration broke the law in funneling money from the Pentagon to build the wall, though a circuit court later said construction could continue while the issue was resolved in the courts.
A fight over border funding caused a 35-day government shutdown in 2018-2019 with Trump demanding billions in funding for the wall and Democrats balking. Congress later agreed to $1.4 billion for the border, though that was less than spending proposals had originally offered.