FederalImmigration & BorderDefense Bill Heads to Conference with Potential Border Implications for Texas

As the National Defense Authorization Act goes to conference this week, an ongoing spat over the president's efforts to build a border wall takes center stage.
September 18, 2019
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As the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 goes to conference this week, the congressional outcome could have implications for Texas.

Building on the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 – a bill sponsored by Texas Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13) – the NDAA essentially authorizes America’s national defense apparatus. Specifically, the bill authorizes funding for U.S. military and national defense priorities including funding for all four branches of the military, equipment, weapons, and other capabilities related to increasing military preparedness.

The legislation also authorizes funding for nuclear deterrence, advancing technology development, enhancing cyber warfare, and establishing a U.S. Space Force as a new Air Force component.

The difficulty for Congress this week will be in reconciling the Democrat-controlled House version of the bill with the Republican-controlled Senate version, as each version reflects the interests of the majority in each chamber. 

With policy differences ranging from space reform to personnel issues that must be reconciled, a key point of discussion will be the $750 billion in funding allocated in support of U.S. military and national defense priorities in the Senate version – an amount that has been reduced to $738 billion in the House bill.

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For Texas, the outcome of NDAA discussion has potential implications for border security. 

A congressional source who wished to remain anonymous told The Texan that some committee Republicans are likely to push Democrats on backfilling much of the military construction funding that was diverted for border security – as many of those projects that lost funding were located in Texas.

Specifically, the House version of the bill seeks to regulate many of the ways in which the Department of Defense participates in border security, specifically prohibiting the president from using military construction funds for the border wall.

Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) spoke out against President Trump’s plans to shift funding for military construction projects in order to fund a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“House Democrats will continue to oppose these policies and push for responsible solutions to this challenge that comport with America’s moral values and core principles. We will keep fighting to prevent this President from using taxpayer and military resources to build a wall that representatives from both parties have cited as ineffective and not worth the expense,” Hoyer said in a press release.  

On Tuesday, House Democrats rejected a GOP motion to instruct conferees to backfill the funding diverted for the wall. 

The Senate version of the bill, however, includes $3.6 billion in spending to replace the $3.6 billion in funds that the Pentagon previously announced it was moving to construct nearly 200 miles of border barrier.

As policy differences between the two versions of the bill are reconciled, the outcome of the annual defense bill could very well be determined over the ongoing policy feud regarding the border crisis, with implications for both the Texas border and ongoing military construction projects in the Lone Star state hanging in the balance.

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.