Detroit Free Press: Senators: Does border wall threaten Soo Locks, other projects?
WASHINGTON – Michigan’s U.S. senators want assurances from President Donald Trump that he won’t take money from projects they consider vital to the future of the state to build a southern border wall.
Although Trump has somewhat backed off his threat to declare an emergency at the southern border and then possibly redirect existing funding toward construction of a wall, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich., want to know for sure that Michigan projects are safe.
They said they sent a letter Monday to officials with the Army Corps of Engineers asking whether the Corps has been told to consider shifting funding away from projects, including those intended to keep invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes and construction of a new navigation lock at Sault Ste. Marie in northern Michigan, a project that could employ thousands of workers.
“We have continually communicated with you in person and in writing the undeniable importance of these projects to the well-being of the Great Lakes and to the economies of Michigan, the region and the country,” they wrote. “We look forward to receiving a prompt response confirming that these funds … are not being redirected.”
The Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
But U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said in a statement Tuesday night that funding for a new Soo Lock is safe under legislation approved by Congress last year. “It is a false choice to say funding for the Soo Locks is at risk. ... (W)e passed a law last year that I voted for that protects the Soo Locks funding from being redirected."
While Trump in recent weeks has said it would be fully within his authority to declare an emergency at the southern border, despite evidence that illegal border crossings are well below where they were two decades ago, he has more recently suggested he has no immediate plans to do so. If he did, however, he could potentially move funding within the Department of Defense — of which the Army Corps of Engineers is part — to pay for a $5.7-billion border wall.
But much of the speculation around whether Trump would take such a step has focused on about $13 billion in unspent but committed funds for disaster relief projects authorized last year. Michigan was not expected to receive any of that funding, which was instead headed to projects in California, Texas, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
The federal government has been in partial shutdown for 25 days as of Tuesday as the president continues to demand full funding of his proposed border wall and Democrats in Congress refuse to provide it, believing it is too expensive and unnecessary.
By: Todd Spangler
Source: Detroit Free Press
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