Wall money could come out of $800M sent to Florida

The Bradenton Herald - - Obituaries - BY ALEX DAUGHERTY adaugh­[email protected]­clatchydc.com

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lat­est pro­posal to pay for a bor­der wall by declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency and tak­ing money from dis­as­ter re­lief projects — po­ten­tially in­clud­ing money doled out af­ter Hur­ri­canes Irma and Maria — could in­clude more than $800 mil­lion ear­marked for Florida last year for dis­as­ter re­lief.

Sev­eral me­dia out­lets re­ported Thurs­day that Trump was ey­ing a por­tion of $13.9 bil­lion given to the Army Corps of En­gi­neers by Congress for dis­as­ter re­lief projects.

That amount in­cludes an $802 mil­lion out­lay to Florida, the largest chunk of which was $514 mil­lion to re­pair the Her­bert Hoover Dike around Lake Okee­chobee.

Four mem­bers of Congress from Florida said they were not aware of any Florida-spe­cific projects that could lose money to pay for the wall. In­stead, money for projects in Puerto Rico and Cal­i­for­nia could be used to give Trump the $5.7 bil­lion he’s been de­mand­ing for a wall, ac­cord­ing to mem­bers of Congress from Cal­i­for­nia.

“The [dis­as­ter] funds are flow­ing to Florida, and they’re flow­ing to our dis­trict,” said Repub­li­can Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a mem­ber of the House com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble for fed­eral spend­ing who rep­re­sents part of the Naples area that saw heavy dam­age dur­ing Irma.

“I would ar­gue that it’s never fast enough, but the funds are flow­ing in our dis­trict. They’re go­ing to all the cities, they’re go­ing to all the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Florida’s got the money.”

Diaz-Balart, who is crit­i­cal of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s re­fusal to in­clude $5.7 bil­lion in wall money in the House spend­ing bills, said the im­passe should be solved leg­isla­tively rather than Trump declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to find money for the wall. Such a move would by­pass Congress’ power of the purse and likely set off lit­i­ga­tion.

Demo­cratic Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, who also serves on the spend­ing com­mit­tee that dis­trib­uted bil­lions in re­lief funds, said Democrats and Repub­li­cans will not al­low any money to be di­verted for a wall from other projects ap­proved by Congress.

“The pres­i­dent is still be­ing very vague about where he’s go­ing to pull these funds from,” Wasser­man Schultz said.

“Se­na­tor [Marco] Ru­bio and I have been talk­ing and we’re work­ing to­gether to ad­dress and make it clear that raid­ing those funds would be un­ac­cept­able.”

The Los An­ge­les Times re­ported that 13 spe­cific wa­ter-re­lated projects in Cal­i­for­nia and Puerto Rico could see funds di­verted for Trump’s $5.7 bil­lion de­mand.

The Cal­i­for­nia projects to­tal $2.46 bil­lion, while the Puerto Rico projects to­tal $2.5 bil­lion.

None of the Florida mem­bers in­ter­viewed by the Mi­ami Her­ald on Fri­day were aware of any po­ten­tial Florida projects that could be in­cluded to drum up more bor­der money.

On Fri­day, Repub­li­can Gov. Ron De­San­tis, said that it would not be ac­cept­able for Trump to take funds from hur­ri­cane re­lief to pay for a bor­der wall.

“We have peo­ple count­ing on that,” De­San­tis told re­porters in Tal­la­has­see. “If they back-fill it im­me­di­ately af­ter the gov­ern­ment opens, that’s fine, but I don’t want that to be where that money is not avail­able for us.”

De­San­tis’ com­ments Fri­day struck a dif­fer­ent tone than when he was asked about the shut­down on Thurs­day — be­fore news broke that Florida’s hur­ri­cane fund­ing could be sac­ri­ficed for the bor­der wall. De­San­tis, an ally of Trump who cam­paigned as a sup­porter of the pres­i­dent’s agenda, said then that he has his “hands full down here,” in­di­cat­ing he didn’t want to get in­volved in all the “po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing” in Wash­ing­ton.

A spokesman for Repub­li­can Sen. Rick Scott said Scott spoke with Trump on Thurs­day night and said “at this time, we have no rea­son to be­lieve that Florida dis­as­ter funds will be re­pur­posed for any rea­son.”

The dis­cus­sion of dis­as­ter funds is the lat­est de­vel­op­ment in what will be­come the longest gov­ern­ment shut­down in U.S. his­tory, as the Se­nate for­mally ad­journed on Fri­day un­til Mon­day af­ter­noon, mean­ing the im­passe will last at least 24 days.

Fed­eral work­ers re­ceived $0 pay­checks on Fri­day, and Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port an­nounced that one of its ter­mi­nals will shut down this week­end as TSA agents con­tinue to work with­out be­ing paid.

GRE­GORY BULL AP Photo

Peo­ple record with their phones in front of the bor­der wall Thurs­day along the beach in Ti­juana, Mex­ico. Tak­ing the shut­down fight to the Mex­i­can bor­der, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump edged closer Thurs­day to declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency in an ex­tra­or­di­nary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised bor­der wall.

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