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These GOP senators voted to potentially let Trump pull funds from military projects back home

Votes could carry some risk for Republicans up for re-election in 2020

As the 2010 health care law weathers its latest legal challenge, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., has introduced a bill aimed at pre-existing conditions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
As the 2010 health care law weathers its latest legal challenge, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., has introduced a bill aimed at pre-existing conditions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Some Republican senators who voted Thursday against terminating the President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration may face backlash for risking military projects in their home states.

Twelve GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting for the joint resolution to block the president’s bid to redirect up to $6.7 billion from other Cabinet departments for his southern border wall. But 41 Republicans, some facing competitive re-elections in 2020, voted against the measure. 

In the weeks since Trump announced his national emergency decision, concerns among Republicans have chiefly centered on constitutional questions about skewing the balance of powers toward the executive branch and away from Congress.

But there is another more tangible concern for the senators to grapple with: To unilaterally finance the wall, Trump must divert funds away from military construction projects. Some Republicans in the House broke ranks over the contentious maneuver last month.

Trump has stated he intends to veto the resolution, and neither chamber appears to have the necessary supermajority to override him. That tees up the reallocation of more than a third of the $10 billion Congress earmarked for fiscal 2019 for military construction funds, or MILCON, toward the wall. 

Also watch: Trump announces national emergency on border, despite likely legal challenge

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Over 300 projects on bases in about 40 states and territories and abroad could be on the chopping block, and it is unclear which projects will be delayed or canceled.

Leading Democrats on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees have speculated that Pentagon officials have finalized a list of military construction projects vulnerable to cuts, but hesitated to make it public until after the vote.

“We have been asking for a month what projects will be affected and they will give us that list after we vote today,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Thursday

Here is a look at some of the no-voting GOP senators, up for re-election in 2020, with military projects in their states that could be vulnerable to cuts. 

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina

Tillis, a member of the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, represents Camp Lejeune, a Marine base that sustained severe damage in Hurricane Florence requiring billions in repairs.

The senator came out against Trump’s emergency declaration last month in a Washington Post op-ed, but ultimately buckled under pressure from the White House and critics back home, who threatened him with a primary challenge.

Tillis, who unseated Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014 by less than 2 points, faces a competitive re-election, which Inside Election with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Tilts Republican

The military construction budget in North Carolina spans several other bases including Fort Bragg and Cherry Point. Projects at risk include an ambulatory care center, classrooms and a hangar for KC-46A Pegasus Boeing aircraft, altogether totaling nearly $600 million in allocated spending.

A Tillis spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona

McSally is one of the GOP’s most vulnerable senators this cycle. Inside Elections rates her race a Toss-up

As much as $40 million could be diverted from projects supporting F-35 fleets at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. 

But McSally said Wednesday in an interview with The Arizona Republic that she had received private assurances from the White House and the Department of Defense that military construction projects in her state would not see cuts.

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia

Projects at Fort Benning and Fort Gordon totaling at least $112 million could be scuttled in order to fund the southern border wall.

Perdue has been a staunch ally of Trump’s push for the border barrier. He has a potentially difficult re-election for a second term next year in a state that has been trending purple. Inside Elections rates his race Leans Republican.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado

As much as $101 million in MILCON projects at Fort Carson could dissipate or be delayed under the national emergency declaration, including $15 million for a training center and $77 million for a vehicle maintenance shop.

In a statement following the vote, Gardner stressed the necessity of a wall to address what he described as a “crisis” at the border.

A Gardner spokeswoman told Denver7 News the senator received private assurances from the White House that military construction projects in his state would be off the table.

Gardner is one of only two Republicans up for re-election next year in states that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. (The other is Maine’s Susan Collins, who backed the termination resolution.) Gardner unseated Democrat Mark Udall by 2 points in 2014. Inside Elections rates his bid for a second term a Toss-up

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas

Texas military construction projects total at least $510 million in slated spending. That sum includes $250 million for a hospital at Fort Bliss, and millions for classrooms and dormitories at Joint Base San Antonio.


Cornyn could face a potentially competitive race for a fourth term next year. His fellow Texas Republican Ted Cruz won re-election last fall over Democrat Beto O’Rourke by less than 3 points. Inside Elections rates Cornyn’s re-election Solid Republican.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

Graham represents at least four military installations that could see projects delayed or nixed, including a barracks for trainees and a hangar for aircraft maintenance. The projects total $230 million. 

A noted defense hawk, Graham is up for a fourth term next year in a race Inside Elections rates Solid Republican.

Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska

Trump’s national emergency declaration could pull from Air Force and Army projects in Alaska totaling more than $1 billion. They include several facilities for the storage and upkeep of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jets at Eielson Air Force Base in anticipation of the arrival of two fleets in early 2020.

Along with Alaska’s at-large Rep. Don Young, Sullivan expressed concern about the potential diversion of those funds in a Feb. 26 letter to Trump, citing the unique challenges of building in frigid temperatures, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“[W]e seek your commitment that funds appropriated for urgently needed national security projects in the state of Alaska will be protected from diversion given the logistical challenges they face from limited construction seasons,” the lawmakers wrote. Young voted the same day in the House against terminating Trump’s declaration

Sullivan unseated Democrat Mark Begich by 2 points in 2014, but Inside Elections rates his re-election next year Solid Republican.

A spokesman for Sullivan did not reply to a request for comment.


Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Though he whipped votes against the resolution, the majority leader represents Fort Campbell, where refurbishments to training facilities and a middle school could be deferred. 

Inside Elections rates his bid for a seventh term next year Solid Republican.


At least six other GOP senators, who are on the ballot next year and have military construction projects in their home states, voted against the termination resolution. They include: Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith, Montana’s Steve Daines, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Oklahoma’s James Lankford and South Dakota’s Mike Rounds

Inside Elections rates their races Solid Republican.


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