Alaska’s senators diverge on vote to block Trump’s border wall emergency

The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Alaska’s U.S. senators split on the vote Thursday to block President Trump’s declaration of an emergency. If, as expected, Trump prevails with a veto, Alaska could lose military construction projects as money is diverted to build a wall on the southern border.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of a dozen Republicans who voted to cancel the emergency. She said Congress should address the president’s concerns about border security, but she sees his diversion of funds as an erosion of a power the Constitution assigns to the legislative branch.

“As we say around here, the power of the purse rests with the Congress,” Murkowski said last week on the Senate floor.

Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against rejecting Trump’s declaration. Sullivan said the southern border is porous and he doesn’t want to vote against the president’s attempt to keep Americans safe.

The Senate vote was 59-41. Trump responded with a tweet : “VETO!”

His veto would leave the emergency declaration in place, allowing Trump to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects and spend it on a border wall. No one can say yet which projects will be cut or deferred.

Alaska projects safe?

At a hearing hours before the vote, senators pressed Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan for a list. Shanahan said there isn’t one, but he did say what projects would not be cut.

“Military construction on the border will not come at the expense of our people, our readiness or our modernization,” he said, later adding that money appropriated in Fiscal Year 2019 is also safe from cuts.

Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions in military construction dollars to Alaska in recent years, and some of it could be vulnerable. Sullivan, though, takes it as a good sign that at the hearing, he got Shanahan to agree Alaska is of great strategic importance.

“I asked him if those were critical readiness issues for the United States of America – Alaska missile defense, and Alaska F-35s,” Sullivan recounted. “And he said ‘absolutely.’”

That may be short of a guarantee that Alaska projects are safe, but Sullivan said the answer gave him confidence.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada, U.S. must do more to check Russian military in the Arctic, says NORAD chief, CBC News

Finland: Finnish president Niinistö to attend Arctic Forum in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Russian military officials arrive in Oslo as Norway puts GPS jamming facts on the table, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian military to get fast, secure internet through trans-Arctic cable, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: President Trump speaks to troops at Alaska military base, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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