It’s no secret that President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to fund his border wall between the United States and Mexico will rely heavily on Defense Department money to kickstart construction. But, according to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, we now have a better idea of just where in the Pentagon that money will reportedly come from: The Troops™ themselves.
Speaking with the Associated Press on Thursday, Durbin, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and was reportedly among a “group of bipartisan lawmakers” who met with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, asserted that money to fund Trump’s wall will be “coming out of military pay and pensions.”
“$1 billion,” Durbin added. “That’s the plan.” (We reached out to Sen. Richard Shelby, the chair of both the Senate Appropriations committee and its subcommittee on defense, and will update when and if we receive a response.)
As the AP reports, the $1 billion is unspent money that’s accumulated due to underperforming military recruitment efforts and an infrequently used voluntary early retirement fund. So, while not taking money directly out of soldiers’ paychecks, the plan would nevertheless mean less funds to pay future recruits and potential retirees. Per the AP, the money will instead be channeled through the DOD budget into a “drug interdiction” fund, where it will then be applied toward barrier construction.
“This is pay that would have gone to Army recruits that we can’t recruit,” Durbin said. “So there’s a ‘savings’ because we can’t recruit. The other part was they offered a voluntary change in military pensions, and they overestimated how many people would sign up for it.”
Senate Democrats and as many as 15 Republican senators, according to the Hill, have lined up to strike down the president’s emergency declaration, meaning the money might never be transferred away from the Pentagon’s pay and pension budget after all. Trump has signaled he will veto any congressional action against his plan, which would require a 2/3rds majority in both houses to override.
Still, for a president who has made loving The Troops a central point of his presidency, the decision to reallocate pay and pension funds is yet another reminder that Trump is willing to throw anyone under the bus for political (or personal) benefit.