BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look at using emergency funds Congress approved for disaster relief to build a border wall with Mexico, according to a congressional aide who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The Associated Press reports the aide said the $13.9 billion has been allocated for a variety of projects in areas of California, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other states that have experienced hurricanes, wildfires, or other natural disasters, but not yet obligated through contracts.
According to Senator Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, funding for several flood control projects in Louisiana, like the Comite River Diversion Canal and the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project, is considered obligated, meaning it’s been set aside for these projects. Only the un-obligated funding will be tapped in President Trump’s potential plan.
“Money for Comite, West Shore and other Louisiana projects has already been set aside. What is being reported based on anonymous sources indicates unobligated Army Corps funds would be used so no projects in Louisiana would be affected,” a spokesperson for Sen. Cassidy confirmed.
Senator John Kennedy says he’s received no indication that Louisiana projects are in danger of losing funding.
“I have received no indication from the White House that the Comite River Diversion Canal or any other Louisiana project is in danger of losing funding. What I do know is that it is impossible to secure a 1,900 mile border without using a barrier. The reason that part of the federal government is shut down is because Speaker Pelosi hates President Trump more than she wants border security,” Senator John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said.
Representative Garret Graves also responded to the issue:
The funds currently under consideration to be re-purposed toward a border wall are not funds from Louisiana. We are doing everything we can to work with the White House, Corps and others to temper the impact and urging them – should they move ahead with an emergency declaration – to only utilize funds that are not otherwise going to be spent in 2019 in order to create time to come back and replenish those dollars.
Let me be clear: I have consistently supported and will continue to support border security. My position on that has not changed in the last months or years.
But it’s important to take a step back and ask, why are in this situation right now? We’re in this situation right now because you have Democrat members of congress who historically (as recently as months ago in some cases), were supporting, proposing legislation and voting for billions of dollars for border security and border barriers. Yet suddenly, because this president has made it a priority, it has become a political fight full of meritless debate in which many are just opposing it strictly because of politics.
It’s ridiculous that we’re in this predicament, that the government is partially shuttered, that federal employees aren’t getting paid right now, and that it has come to the president making an emergency declaration to divert billions of dollars from important projects to protect our southern border. We shouldn’t be here and this isn’t how this place is supposed to work. I don’t think that an emergency declaration is an option that should have to be on the table – and the precedent does concern me.
President Donald Trump is considering invoking emergency powers to build the wall. His demand for the wall funding led to the partial government shutdown.
Requests for comment from U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, has not been answered.