October 17, 2019

VIDEO: Udall Speaks on Senate Floor Urging Override of President’s Veto of Udall’s Bipartisan Resolution Halting National Emergency Declaration

The Senate has voted twice to terminate the president’s national emergency declaration, which violates the constitutional separation of powers and raids $125 million from military bases in New Mexico

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyGqFbcLo54&feature=youtu.be  

WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) spoke on the Senate floor calling on the Senate to vote to override the president’s recent veto of Udall’s bipartisan resolution to terminate the president’s unlawful national emergency declaration, which the Trump administration is using to raid $125 million from military bases in New Mexico to pay for the border wall. In his remarks, Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, reiterated that the president’s emergency declaration undermines Congress’ constitutional authority to appropriate federal funds and endangers national security and military personnel in New Mexico and across the country. Udall urged his colleagues to exercise the checks and balances outlined by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. 

“I was proud to lead the charge before this body to terminate the declaration,” Udall said. “A declaration the president is using to raid congressionally-appropriated military construction funds to build his border wall. Plain and simple—the president’s emergency declaration is an end-run around Congress’s spending powers and the Constitution.”

 Udall continued by highlighting the consequences of the president’s raid of billions of dollars in military construction projects across the country to pay for his border wall. “Not only is a fundamental constitutional principle at stake. The president’s emergency declaration has real life impacts…impacts to our national security and impacts to the 23 states whose projects are now gone.

“My home state of New Mexico is one of those 23 states,” Udall continued. “We’re home to two military bases that will be hit by the president’s raid on military construction projects to fund his wall. Twenty-two other states are losing military construction projects – from Alabama to Arizona, North Carolina to Texas, Maine to Florida.”

Finally, Udall spoke out about how border states like New Mexico have been targeted by President Trump’s land grab. “The wall would run through hundreds of miles of untouched, pristine lands that are home to wildlife like antelope, deer, javelina,” Udall continued. “At its base, the president’s wall – and his divisive rhetoric toward immigrants – is deeply offensive to New Mexicans. We have strong family, cultural, and economic ties to Mexico. We are a proud multicultural state. Our diversity does not divide us. It defines us.”

The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery is below.

Last month, both the Senate and House of Representatives resolved, on a bipartisan basis, to terminate the president’s declaration of a national emergency along our southern border.

I was proud to lead the charge before this body to terminate the declaration. A declaration the president is using to raid congressionally-appropriated military construction funds to build his border wall.

Plain and simple -- the president’s emergency declaration is an end-run around Congress’s spending powers and the Constitution.

Last week, a federal district court has agreed and concluded the president’s declaration is “unlawful.”

Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution could not be clearer. It reads, and I quote: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law. . . .”

The founders gave Congress the power to appropriate. The power of the purse. This is one of our most consequential powers.

Congress has this power to make sure decisions how public dollars are spent have widespread support . . . and are not the product of an extreme minority. Let alone one man. 

Our power to appropriate is part of the system of checks and balances built into our Constitution. The founders made sure that the three branches of government exercised their own separate and limited powers.  

And they made sure that no one branch -- and no one person – could exercise too much power.

Especially over the use of taxpayer money.

The president’s emergency declaration is an unconstitutional power grab. Congress has not fully funded his requests for border wall funding. We set different budget priorities. Our priorities include the $3.6 billion dollars’ worth of 127 military construction projects across 23 states, 3 territories, and 20 countries that the president cancelled.

But this president will not accept Congress’s judgment. Or our constitutional authority. His emergency declaration is an exercise of power that is just not his under the Constitution.

But our system of checks and balances only works if each branch has the will to check the other branch if there is encroachment. 

It is up to Congress, the legislative branch, to guard our constitutional authority . . . and to exercise the will to do so.

The president has now vetoed Congress’s resolution. It’s up to this body to assert our constitutional authority and override the veto.

Not only is a fundamental constitutional principle at stake. The president’s emergency declaration has real life impacts – impacts to our national security and impacts to the 23 states whose projects are now gone.

My home state of New Mexico is one of those 23 states. We’re home to two military bases that will be hit by the president’s raid on military construction projects to fund his wall. 

Scuttled is an $85 million dollar project at Holloman Air Force Base that would improve drone pilot-training facilities that are aging and have sinkholes and bat infestation. Training our military to pilot drones is mission-critical in this day and age. The Air Force is battling a shortage of these pilots.

At White Sands Missile Range, a $40 million project designed to replace an aging and fire damaged information systems facility, has been cut. This project was to prepare the range to take on the next generation of missile and weapons testing, including future hypersonic testing.

Twenty-two other states are losing military construction projects – from Alabama to Arizona, North Carolina to Texas, Maine to Florida.

In Utah, the Air Force has sought a new control center at Hill Air Force Base to replace  “structurally deficient” “dilapidated [World War II]-era warehouses for mission control.

In Louisiana, the Air National Guard sought to replace an aircraft parking ramp in a New Orleans facility that exposes the public to an “unacceptable risk” of being impacted by an explosive accident.

In Indiana, Army service members have worked in violation of safety standards for handling explosives and need additional space for munitions.

In Kentucky, the military seeks to repair “substandard,” “deficient, inadequate, and undersized facilities” at a middle school at Fort Campbell that “impair[s] the overall education program” for the children of service members.

But not only is New Mexico of the states hit by the president cancelling important military construction projects. We are one of four states that borders Mexico. We are ground zero for the president’s border wall and the havoc it will wreak on our communities, way of life, local economies, land owners, and environment. 

New Mexico and Mexico share a 180 mile border. This border passes through three counties – Doña Ana, Luna, and Hidalgo -- that are home to 11 percent of our state’s population. A majority of the population in those counties is Hispanic.  We have vibrant communities along and near the border, including our second largest city – Las Cruces – 45 minutes from Mexico. 

We have two ports of entry – in Columbus and Santa Teresa – that are bustling with commerce, international trade, and hundreds who cross the border daily to visit family and friends, go to school, and shop.

I know our border communities. I can tell you for a fact there is no justification for the diversion of military construction funding away from our troops and to this wall.

I support smart border security. And have voted many times to fund smart investments.  New Mexico knows what real border security is:  well-trained officers, adequate resources, mobile assets, surveillance technology. Combined with well-staffed ports of entry that welcome commerce, visitors — and also asylum seekers seeking refuge from horrific persecution.

But the president’s wall – at upwards of $25 million dollars per mile -- is not a smart investment. It’s antiquated. It’s designed to deter unlawful immigration of single men coming over the border to look for work.  It’s not designed for today’s reality of families entering seeking asylum under the law.

This wasteful approach contrasts to the sound investment we made in the Columbus Port of Entry in New Mexico. Commerce, personal vehicle traffic, and foot traffic had increased exponentially over the years. Customs and Border Protection needed more secure facilities. We pushed to expand and update that port. 

For $90 million dollars, we greatly enhanced border security AND added to economic growth. Now that’s a wise investment of taxpayer dollars. 

In New Mexico, we’re concerned about the land grab underway by this administration.

They are rushing to expropriate private lands for the president’s wall. And there are lots of landowners who don’t want their lands cut in half or made unusable.

We can’t get answers from the administration about what they’re doing. And so Senator Heinrich and I, along with Senator Schumer and Senator Durbin, requested the Government Accountability Office investigate the number of citizens who could potentially have their land seized, the cost the property acquisitions, the time it will take, and the administration's work to compensate landowners. I’m pleased the GAO has opened an inquiry. 

Not only is there concern the Trump administration will skirt eminent domain laws, there is a real threat that environmental laws will be tossed out the window in administration’s rush to fulfill the president’s campaign promise to build 500 miles of wall.

The wall would run through hundreds of miles of untouched, pristine lands that are home to wildlife like antelope, deer, javelina. A wall will tear up these lands and their vegetation, cause erosion and flooding, and cut off migratory paths for wildlife – threatening their livelihood.

The Department of Interior is set to transfer 500 acres of lands in New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the Army for the president’s wall.  213 of those acres are in my state. The Department of the Interior is supposed to protect our natural resources -- not endanger them with a border wall that will compromise their ecological value, destroy habitat connectivity, and harm wildlife.

At its base, the president’s wall – and his divisive rhetoric toward immigrants – is deeply offensive to New Mexicans. We have strong family, cultural, and economic ties to Mexico.

We are a proud multicultural state. Our diversity does not divide us. It DEFINES us.

This body holds the power of the purse. Not the president. Now is the time to affirm this constitutional power, and affirm the appropriation decisions we have made for our own states and the nation.

We should override the president’s veto.

And make sure that legitimate national security interests are protected -- by seeing that the 127 military construction projects go forward on schedule.