GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn Weighs In On Funding Sources For National Emergency
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
President Trump has declared a national emergency because he says that's what it is - an invasion, he called it today, of drugs and criminals coming into our country.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So we're going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we're going to do it. One way or the other, we have to do it.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The move allows the president, either through emergency powers or through administrative action, to free up an additional roughly $6 billion to fund a wall at the southern border. Most of that money will come from the Defense Department budget.
KELLY: Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. His district in Colorado includes two Air Force bases, the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. And he joins me now. Congressman, welcome.
DOUG LAMBORN: Hello. How are you?
KELLY: I'm well, thank you. And I wonder how you're feeling about billions of dollars being taken from other Defense Department budget lines and diverted to building a wall.
LAMBORN: Well, let me say first of all, Mary Louise, I think the president had no choice to declaring national emergency. Congress did not do its job in recognizing the gravity of the situation and appropriating the proper amount of money to address it. Now, when it comes to him declaring an emergency, he's going to use - tap into several pots of money like drug forfeiture money - I think we would all agree with that - or drug interdiction money. This seems to fit that category.
KELLY: Although there is a certain irony in that one of the reasons he cites for wanting to build a wall is to fight drug trafficking and the drug trade, and he's taking money from - he's taking money away from those efforts that were already existing in - under the Pentagon umbrella.
LAMBORN: Well, except that when you build a wall and stop the flow of illegal crossings, including drug carriers, that will help curtail the drugs coming into our country. So to me, that's appropriate. Now, you asked about military construction. I do want to see what those projects are. That's my one concern in this whole area. I would hope he would identify other pots of money before he got to military construction because those are well-thought-out projects and those are years in the pipeline.
KELLY: This emergency declaration is pulling 3.6 billion from military construction.
LAMBORN: That's right. And if he gets to that because he's identified other money that I think will be used first, we'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. I know people are going to try to tie it up in the courts, and it'll be months and months before we actually can probably access it - before he can access the money.
KELLY: Let me ask you, as a member of Congress, a coequal branch of government, does it concern you that in declaring this national emergency, the president is circumventing Congress?
LAMBORN: Well, I will agree that any time a president declares a national emergency - and this is - since 1976, I believe, there is - this has been done 58 times. This is No. 59. The people's representatives need to be vigilant. We need to make sure that it's a genuine emergency. Now, to me, this passes the test.
KELLY: As you know it's controversial, whether this is an emergency or not. People fall on both sides of the line. And the law that you stated that, the 1976 law, doesn't explicitly define an emergency. So the president does have this power. But to my question, Congress, you just explicitly voted to deny him these funds.
LAMBORN: Well, I didn't.
KELLY: I know that you voted against it, but the overwhelming vote in Congress was that this went through.
LAMBORN: Yeah. And maybe those who voted the other way would feel differently. But I have accepted that this is an emergency and that it's getting worse, Mary Louise. The composition of people, there's a lot more minors and families coming - the caravans with thousands of people. That's a new process. So I'm seeing that the problem is actually getting worse. So I accept the president's declaration.
KELLY: And just - we just have time for a sentence - a one-sentence answer - but to the question of whether this raises real questions about democracy and coequal branches of government.
LAMBORN: There's no crisis here. I think everything is working as it's intended. I will be supporting the president.
KELLY: All right. Congressman, thank you.
LAMBORN: Thank you.
KELLY: Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.