Army Corps Confirms to Hagerty that the Biden Administration is Violating Law by Pausing Appropriated Border Wall Funding

June 9, 2021

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WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today questioned Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon, chief of engineers and commanding general, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about funding related to southern border wall construction and the status of contracts. The Corps confirmed that funds appropriated by Congress on a bipartisan basis have now been paused based on direction from the White House, which amounts to, at minimum, a violation of the Impoundment Control Act.  

Notably, Democrats in the last Congress argued a similar point with regard to foreign aid for Ukraine in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Hagerty, along with 39 other senators, sent a letter in March to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro highlighting President Joe Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification, as required by the Impoundment Control Act, and seeking a ruling on infringement of Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.

The statements today from the Corps provides further evidence to GAO that the Biden Administration has violated the law.

Partial Transcript Below:

Hagerty: General, what are the grounds for the termination of those contracts? 

Spellmon: Sir, a termination for a convenience clause as a standard clause in each of the government contracts, and so the guidance that we received from the administration, as you said, was to immediately pause work for a 60 day period while the administration considered its next steps. So we are now, as I said, in a negotiation phase with each one of those vendors.

Hagerty: So to be clear, the administration told you to pause or suspend, can you give me the exact direction that you received?

Spellmon: We paused all of that work. We made safe each of those construction sites down on the border. So what I mean by that is we marked trenches where we had potential for people to fall. We blocked mountain roads that were designed for construction. We wanted to make sure that the public did not have access up there. We braced and secured a lot of steel that we had pre-positioned along the border for eventual placement.

Hagerty: So the funds that this Committee on a bipartisan basis has appropriated have now been paused based on the direction that you received from the White House?

Spellmon:  We’re pausing, and now the new direction from the administration, and now, as I said, we’re going through a termination for convenience for each of those 20 contracts. And as I said, each one of those is a separate negotiation with the contractor.

Hagerty: So the decision to slow down, freeze, and otherwise not proceed has been made based on guidance from the White House?

Spellmon: The guidance that we received from the administration, yes sir. For my case through DOD and the Army.

Hagerty: I’ll underscore the fact that this committee on a bipartisan basis has allocated these funds for a specific purpose. And I’m very concerned about following the rule of law, and the possible impoundment of these funds, which I think you know would be a great concern to me and every member of this committee. I appreciate you getting back to me with the information on the expenditures that you described and I’ll yield back the rest of my time. Thank you.