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Democrats Threaten to Withhold Votes on Pentagon Spending Bill Over Border Wall Funds

President Trump talks with a Border Patrol agent while touring border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, Calif., March 13, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Senate Democrats warned this week they may refuse to vote for a defense spending bill if it includes provisions allowing President Trump to divert Pentagon funds to the construction of his border wall.

“We’re not going to vote for a budget that is partisan, attempted to be jammed down our throat, that puts an additional $12 billion in the wall. Forget that,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a floor speech Wednesday.

“There will likely be some amendments offered, and my vote on final passage depends on the fate of those amendments,” said Senator Dick Durbin, the appropriations subcommittee on defense’s top Democrat. “It doesn’t portend very well for what’s going to happen on the floor, because we all know that without bipartisan support, appropriation bills are very difficult to call and pass.”

Several other Democratic senators, including Senator Patty Murray, have expressed trepidation as well about supporting a spending bill that includes amendments allowing wall spending.

The administration last week took steps to move forward with a plan to reroute $3.6 billion from military construction projects to building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a priority for President Trump since his 2016 campaign.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the transfer of the Pentagon funds to construct 175 miles of border wall, a move that comes several months after Trump declared a national emergency regarding the situation at the border, where thousands of migrants have crossed into the U.S. illegally in recent months. 

Democrats have also attempted to add amendments to the spending bills targeting the Trump administration’s abortion policies, another potential deal-breaker for Republicans.

“Both sides agreed there would be no poison pills. No partisan wrenches thrown into the gears,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Unfortunately, yesterday brought some disturbing signals that Democrats may be rethinking that commitment.”

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