WASHINGTON -- House appropriators approved a $115.5 billion Military Construction-VA spending bill Thursday on a 30-20 vote, with Texas Republican Will Hurd joining Democrats to advance the legislation to the floor.
The rest of the panel's Republicans opposed Democrats' decision to add $12.5 billion in emergency spending to the annual funding bill for veterans' health care. GOP lawmakers also objected to language that would block military construction funds from going to installations named after Confederate officers unless the names are first changed.
Hurd, the only Black Republican lawmaker in the House, is retiring after finishing the current term, his third.
The sole GOP amendment, offered by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, would have removed language in the bill that bars President Donald Trump from diverting military construction funds to the border wall project as his administration has sought to do since early 2019. The amendment was rejected on a 13-19 vote.
Harris argued that more barriers along the U.S. border with Mexico would help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce opioid addiction throughout the country.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., argued against adoption of the amendment, saying his case "does not hold water."
She said panel members, regardless of partisan affiliation, should agree that Trump's decision to pull billions in funding from military construction projects was an overreach of his constitutional authority.
"Everyone here must realize how inappropriate it is for the executive branch to trample upon our constitutionally protected power of the purse," Wasserman Schultz said.
Legal challenges to Trump's decision to divert funding from various accounts to the border wall project have been working their way through the court system for months. The latest ruling came in late June, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deciding he did not have authority to divert the funding. The case is likely to end up at the Supreme Court.
Hurd, a former CIA officer who represents a large swath of U.S.-Mexico border territory, has said he opposes the wall project as costly and ineffective. He didn't speak in favor of the Democrats' bill during the markup, however. Hurd's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment.