Texas Republican opposes Trump plan to fund border wall with US defense funds
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

The top Republican on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee said on Tuesday he opposed President Donald Trump’s plan to use $7 billion from the military budget to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Representative Mac Thornberry said he backs the wall, but not with Pentagon funds, calling Trump’s overall $750 billion defense budget request “the bare minimum” of what the U.S. military needs.

“There are things you can’t do if you fund non-defense items with defense dollars, and I don’t think that’s a good idea whatever the merits of the other program,” Thornberry, a Republican representing the Texas Panhandle, said at a roundtable with journalists.

The comments from Thornberry, a former chairman of the Armed Services panel, underscored the bipartisan opposition facing the budget Trump sent to Congress on Monday, even among those who back many of his programs.

Democrats dismissed the budget proposal as dead on arrival.

Thornberry also questioned Trump’s request for $165 billion of the Pentagon’s war-fighting account, nearly three times last year’s $60 billion allocation, and widely seen as an attempt to spend more on the military without having to reach an agreement with Democrats on spending for domestic programs.

“I don’t think this is the Pentagon’s idea,” Thornberry said, instead calling for the two sides to negotiate a spending agreement.

Thornberry joined many of his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats in disputing the wisdom of steep cuts at the State Department - Trump proposed reducing spending on diplomacy by 23 percent and slashing more than 30 percent from foreign aid.

“We need the State Department,” he added.

Separately, Congress is on the verge of approving a resolution to reject Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the southern border as a way to get money to build the wall - and keep a campaign promise - without lawmakers’ approval.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by G Crosse