When President Donald Trump visited Tyndall Air Force Base in May, he promised it would be rebuilt “better than ever” after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage.
Four months later, the Department of Defense announced that a $17 million project to build a fire-rescue station at the base near Panama City will be put on hold to pay for portions of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Wednesday that $3.6 billion appropriated for military construction projects will be put on hold to pay for 175 miles of a border wall after the president failed to get funding from Congress.
“The wall is being built. It’s going up rapidly,” Trump said Wednesday. “And we think by the end of next year, which will be sometime right after the election actually, but we think we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall, which will be complete.”
In addition to the Tyndall project, 10 military construction projects in Puerto Rico, totaling $402.5 million, will also be put on hold to pay for the wall, the largest number of projects cut among all U.S. states and territories.
A spokesperson for Sen. Marco Rubio said the Republican senator from Florida “remains committed to seeing Tyndall Air Force Base fully rebuilt.”
Rubio was one of 12 Republican senators who voted to unsuccessfully block Trump’s national emergency declaration in March, a move that lets Trump divert military construction funds to pay for the wall.
“We have an emergency at our border, which is why I support the president’s use of forfeiture funds...to build a wall,” Rubio said in March. “However, I cannot support moving funds that Congress explicitly appropriated for construction and upgrades of our military bases.”
Trump vetoed congressional disapproval of his emergency declaration, and the Supreme Court ruled in July that the White House can use military funds to construct a wall.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican who voted in favor of the emergency declaration, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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A spokesperson at Tyndall Air Force Base was not aware of the funding cut when reached by a reporter Wednesday.
The Tyndall project was described as a $10-25 million construction project to build a 34,000-square-foot fire-rescue station capable of handing plane crashes to be manned by 78 people and capable of housing 15 firefighting vehicles, according to a government contract opportunity posted in October 2018.
Democrats said Wednesday they will not replace the money needed to revive the military construction projects, essentially forcing Trump to choose between the wall or military construction.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who chairs the House subcommittee responsible for military construction, said the House of Representatives “will not backfill any projects he steals from today.”
“To pay for his xenophobic border wall boondoggle, President Trump is about to weaken our national security by stealing billions of dollars from our military,” Wasserman Schultz said.