Democratic senators seek to force vote to block Trump border wall funding plan

The border wall between the U.S. and Mexico is shown from the U.S. side near Tecate, California

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Democratic senators said on Wednesday that they would try to force another vote to stop U.S. President Donald Trump from taking billions of dollars from the Department of Defense budget to pay for a wall on the border with Mexico.

According to multiple media reports this week, Trump plans to divert $7.2 billion from military construction and other projects to build his wall, far more than the $1.375 billion for the barrier Congress allotted in a spending bill passed last year.

"This decision adds to the harm already inflicted after the president took $6.3 billion from the Department of Defense last fiscal year, $3.6 billion of which was from already approved military construction projects intended to support our service members at military installations across the United States and around the world," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and other senior Democrats said in a statement.

Constructing a wall along the southern U.S. border, a key part of Trump's hard line on immigration, was a major campaign promise during his 2016 run for president and likely will be again as he seeks re-election this year.

In the 2020 budget bill, lawmakers did not include provisions sponsored by Democrats that would have stopped the Republican president from transferring more Pentagon funds, as he did last year.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, control over federal spending. Trump declared a national emergency on the border to circumvent Congress last year and take money for the wall that lawmakers had designated for other purposes.

Majorities in the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate voted to stop Trump. But they failed to get the two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to override Trump's veto.

There was no indication of when the vote Democrats want might take place, especially with the Senate expected to be tied up with Trump's impeachment trial in the coming weeks.

But even if similar legislation were to pass as it did last year, prospects for overcoming a Trump veto are daunting.

A senior administration official said this week that the administration "is looking at every strategic option" from what was negotiated in the latest budget agreement. However, the official said no final decision had been made on specific border funds.


(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)