GOP senator defends vote to take $80 million from North Carolina troops


Sen. Thom Tillis tried to justify to a constituent his support for Donald Trump's decision to siphon money from North Carolina military families to pay for a US-Mexico border wall.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) showed no regrets for his vote to allow the Trump administration to siphon $80 million from North Carolina military families for a border wall when asked about the issue last week.

Tillis was attending a North Carolina Federation of Republican Women event on Friday when he was confronted by a man unhappy about the vote.

A video of the interaction was published Monday by the progressive research firm American Bridge.

The man — presumed to be one of Tillis' constituents — asked Tillis why he had voted to "defund $80 million from the military," a reference to Tillis' support of Donald Trump's emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border, and Trump's subsequent decision to reallocate billions of dollars in military funding to build a border wall.

Roughly $80 million of that funding came from military installations in North Carolina.

After asking what the questioner knew about the cuts, Tillis gave a misleading response in which he expressed no regrets about his vote.

"Did you know that $40 million of it was already deprogrammed and never going to be spent?" Tillis said.

According to Politifact, only $33 million, not $40 million, was already deprogrammed. That $33 million had originally been allocated for a Fort Bragg school project which was canceled later "due to declining enrollment." However, Politifact noted, that funding could have been moved around to other important projects within North Carolina, including a desperately needed fire station at Fort Bragg's Pope Army Airfield, which would have cost $21 million to build.

The remaining $47 million, including $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, is still being siphoned off to build the border wall Trump repeatedly promised would be paid for by Mexico.

Mexico has not yet contributed any funding toward the wall.

Tillis also defended his vote on Friday by pointing out that Congress "has appropriated a billion dollars in funding to the military in MilCon construction here in spite of the $40 million" reallocated funds.

Tillis then directed the man to a nearby staffer who he said would be able to provide more information, before turning and walking away.

In February, Tillis wrote a Washington Post op-ed declaring he would vote against Trump's attempt to declare a national emergency in order to reallocate funding from the military. Weeks later, Tillis changed his mind and backed Trump regardless.

Backlash was swift. One local editorial castigated Tillis for the sudden change of heart as having "sacrifice[d] every last shred of integrity."

A spokesperson for American Bridge blasted Tillis' most recent defense of that vote on Monday, saying Tillis was cowing to pressure from his Republican primary opponent, Garland Tucker, who has frequently criticized Tillis for not being supportive enough of Trump.

"Thom Tillis is so afraid of losing his primary that he is jeopardizing the safety of North Carolina families by cutting funding for the state’s military bases to pay for Trump's border wall," Zach Hudson said in an email.

Tillis' decision to justify his vote siphoning money from military families was especially curious given the timing of Friday's event, which came just days before Veterans Day.

On Monday, Tillis used social media to thank veterans for their service. "Thank you to all of our Veterans who have bravely fought for our nation and for our flag — because freedom isn’t free," he tweeted.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.