A congressional watchdog says the Biden administration didn’t break the law by pausing construction of the U.S. Mexico border wall.
Biden, in one of his first official actions as president, halted construction of the wall by rescinding an emergency order imposed by the Trump administration along the Southwest border.
The Government Accountability Office in a legal opinion released Tuesday said Biden’s pause on funding was done “in order to perform environmental reviews” and “determine project funding needs in light of changes that warrant using funds differently than initially planned.”
It also said the administration’s move cannot be likened to Trump’s decision in 2019 to freeze military assistance to Ukraine.
Republicans called for the agency to weigh in. Some slammed the GAO's opinion.
“GAO’s decision today makes clear that there are two sets of rules when it comes to executing funds appropriated by Congress: one for Democrat administrations and one for Republican administrations,” Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a statement. “The decision splits hairs to justify actions that, just two years ago, were determined to be contrary to ‘the faithful execution of the law.’”
A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget said the administration “is committed to upholding the rule of law, and the President’s proclamation directed Federal agencies to comply with appropriations law at every step.”
Biden plans to return more than $2 billion that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall and use other funds appropriated by Congress for the project to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” created by the construction. The money will also be used to finish construction on projects for which the money was originally intended, including $79 million for an elementary school for the children of American service members in Germany; $25 million for a fire and rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; and $10 million to expand defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska.
“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the Office of Management and Budget said over the weekend in a statement outlining the plan.
The Trump administration built around 450 miles of wall.
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