Even though the President said he wants to involve the military with guarding the US southern border, some lawmakers in Congress are arguing it shouldn’t be part of their job description.
Rep. Francis Rooney, a Florida Republican, told CNN Tuesday he doesn’t feel comfortable with military on the border.
“I don’t really feel comfortable with deploying military troops and creating the possibility for an increase in violence and an escalation of the conflict,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “These people should be stopped at the border and vetted out, just the normal process, and we should have plenty of agents down there to do that.”
Rooney was responding to President Donald Trump’s comments earlier today, when he said he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.
“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.
He continued: “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”
Asked to clarify his comments during a joint news conference, Trump said he is “preparing for the military to secure our border” and he would be attending a meeting on the topic of border security with Mattis and others “in a little while.”
Democrats responded to Trump’s remarks by saying he is using resources he shouldn’t to accomplish what he wants. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, who is on the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted his opposition to Trump, writing the President needs to put the military first.
“So, @realDonaldTrump, you want our military to build your wall? Why don’t you first visit them in a war zone (you haven’t), take care of their health care (you don’t), & give them a job when they enter civilian life (you have no plan). Put them first, not yourself,” he tweeted Tuesday.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, slammed Trump for wanting to use the military and waste “time, resources and money.”
”.@realDonaldTrump wants to use our troops to advance his extreme anti-immigrant agenda, while wasting time, resources & money and depleting our military strength in areas of real danger. Congress must stop this misguided scheme,” he tweeted, along with a screenshot of a statement.
And Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii argued the military is busy enough and shouldn’t have to also protect the border.
“Our military has more important things to do than to be mobilized to fulfill a politicians campaign promise,” he tweeted. “Also, spending money on a wall or guarding a wall would require a new law, which would fail spectacularly in the Senate.”
Trump has privately floated the idea of funding construction of a border wall with Mexico through the US military budget in conversations with advisers, two sources confirmed to CNN last week.
In response to that report, Sen. Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, tweeted he wrote to Mattis with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island saying Trump has no legal authority to do that.
.@SenJackReed and I wrote to Defense Secretary Mattis about the President’s suggestion to use the military’s budget to pay for his border wall. We believe DOD has no legal authority to do that, and it would also cut funding for the troops.
Trump’s Tuesday comments come after multiple days of hardline immigration rhetoric from the White House, with him calling on Congress to pass strict border laws in a series of tweets beginning Sunday.
CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this report.