Republicans in Congress are increasingly lashing out President BidenJoe BidenFires, smoke, floods, droughts, storms, heat: America needs a climate resilience strategy Senator Susan Collins cuts the corporate tax rate by 28 percent and says jobs will be lost Biden economic advisor views the infrastructure plan as a necessary investment MOREdecides to freeze funding for the wall along the southern border.
GOP lawmakers are targeting Biden’s January proclamation, immediately after taking office, in which he fulfilled a campaign promise to halt the construction of the wall, which had become the centerpiece of the former President TrumpDonald TrumpHow the United States Can Endure Civics 101 Elon Musk asks Twitter for sketch ideas ahead of ‘Saturday Night Live’ States are now running on with cash after pandemic depths MORE‘s tough immigration policy.
The White House said on Jan. 20 it would take 60 days to review the use of border wall funds.
Republicans in Congress argue that Biden’s actions were illegal, as Congress appropriated $ 1.4 billion for the wall in December, leading to an increase in the number of border crossings this year.
“The president’s decision to withhold funding from the border wall, along with other actions taken by his administration, have sparked a national security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border,” said Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithGOP lawmakers question CDC about mask counseling for young children Missouri Republicans Reviewing Senate Bid to Hold Fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago Guilfoyle named as national president of Greitens’ Senate campaign in Missouri MORE (Mo.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said at a hearing on Thursday.
Immigration was one of Biden’s greatest political vulnerabilities in the early months of a presidency that was generally greeted high level of support from the audience.
The number of arrested migrants crossing the border reached a 15-year high of 170,000 in March, fueled by an increase in the number of minors traveling alone. The White House said last week that the number of children held in Border Patrol facilities has fallen 84 percent from its peak in March.
In addition to the implications for the border, Republican proprietors argue that the freeze interfered with the purse’s constitutionally imposed power by not giving Congress funding approved by lawmakers.
“Funds for border wall construction were appropriated by Congress as a result of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and should be spent as required by law,” said members of the Republican Credit Commission wrote in a letter Thursday for Vice President Harris.
“As you can see from the unprecedented number of detentions reported by Customs and Border Guards, we are in a state of emergency that requires action, no delay in spending the resources that Congress has already made available,” she added .
The government’s 60-day evaluation period of border wall funds, the letter said, has come and gone without updates or a report to Congress.
On Friday afternoon, the government announced a move that is likely to infuriate Republicans even more. The White House said it would cancel border wall projects funded by the Department of Defense and return the money to the military construction projects they were pulled from during the Trump administration.
Trump had channeled billions in defense dollars to the wall, using emergency powers following a standoff with Congress over wall funding that led to the longest government shutdown in the country’s history.
“The construction of a border wall under the previous administration trapped more than $ 14 billion in tax dollars, shortened our military and diverted attention from real security challenges such as human traffickers,” a Biden official said Friday.
“Hasty and haphazard wall constructions also resulted in serious life, safety and environmental problems,” added the official.
The White House plans to use some of the allocated wall funds to address those concerns, such as repairing a dam system in the Rio Grande Valley that they said was damaged by the construction of border walls and reducing it. of soil erosion along San Diego’s 14-mile barrier. .
Still, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating the legality of Biden’s earlier freeze, which may have violated the Impoundment Control Act.
Edda Emmanuelli Perez, GAO’s deputy general counsel, said Thursday that the watchdog agency began investigating the freeze shortly after Biden announced it in January, before Republicans called for a review.
The GAO report is expected in the first week of May.
An earlier GAO report, released in 2020, determined that Trump was acting illegally in a similar situation when he froze appropriated military funds to Ukraine.
Withholding funds destined for Ukraine was an important part of Trump’s initial impeachment.
In its 2020 report, the GAO said that, in addition to a formal request from Congress to withdraw funds, a temporary postponement by the executive branch was allowed only to achieve “savings made possible by or through changes in the requirements or greater efficiency of operations. ”
Biden’s White House, which says it wants to spend the border wall funds within the required legal framework, could argue that its decision to overhaul the use of wall funds meets GAO requirements.
But the GAO’s ruling on Trump was also clear that the law “does not allow deferment of payment for policy reasons,” an issue that could prove to be embarrassing for Biden, who repeatedly pledged during the campaign that he would stop building the wall. He was also explicit about his opposition to the use of tax money for its construction and pledged in his budget proposal to reclaim the previous funding.
“It’s a waste of money that diverts attention from real threats to our internal security,” Biden said in his January Proclamation, adding that the wall was “not a serious policy solution.”
In response to the GOP criticism, Congressional Democrats argue that their colleagues across the aisle were largely silent when Trump attempted to circumvent congressional spending deals.
“I would like, Mr. Chairman, that we can keep the record open to all Republican members who want to document the kind of objections they made to any of these actions at the time,” Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceThe US has a significant flooding problem – Congress can help Against increasing expectations, Biden is seeking GOP support for the infrastructure plan The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Biden meets bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations MORE (DN.C.) said at Thursday’s budget hearing.
But Democrats are also exposed, as many of them post the GAO’s ruling against Trump last year. If the watchdog rules that Biden acted inappropriately, Republicans will likely draw attention to those earlier comments.
However, the practical implications of a GAO ruling against Biden would be minimal.
“Nobody goes to jail for this,” said Bill Hoagland, a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It’s a slap on the hand and says, ‘Don’t do this in the future.’ ”