WASHINGTON (WFXR) — Virginia’s junior senator is crying foul on President Donald Trump’s decision to redirect Pentagon funds for the construction of a wall on America’s southern border with Mexico.
In a wide-ranging discussion Wednesday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also called for universal background checks and called the president’s recently-canceled Camp David peace talks with the Taliban “half-baked.”
The Defense Department said last week that 127 military projects would be impacted by the diversion of Pentagon funds to the border wall’s construction. Of the $3.6 billion diverted from defense projects, about $77 million comes from projects at military bases in the Hampton Roads region of southwest Virginia. Kaine said.
“I take support for the military – doing it the right way and not the wrong way – as an incredibly important priority,” he said, adding that the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility of appropriating funds to government agencies.
Throughout the 2016 election, then-candidate Donald Trump said Mexico would pay for the border wall, a point Kaine drove home Wednesday.
“He’s broken that promise. That’s bad enough but now he’s making our troops and our military and our nation’s security pay for his foolish promise. I condemned that on the floor of the Senate yesterday and I am going to continue to condemn it,” he said. Efforts are underway, according to Kaine, to vote on a condemnation of Trump’s use of military funds to build the wall.
The 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee said impacted projects, including those in Virginia, were lobbied for by the Pentagon and are necessary for defense readiness. That, Kaine said, puts the United States and its troops at risk.
Kaine also discussed a spate of mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Midland/Odessa, Texas. While discussing recent mass shootings, he recalled the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 that left 32 dead. The senator said universal background checks were necessary, but it was also important to stop people from accessing high-capacity magazines, adding that the shooter in Dayton was able to kill and injure dozens in just 30 seconds.
The Senate has not voted on gun control legislation, which Kaine said was unacceptable. He called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and said bills on gun control deserve votes, specifically noting H.R. 8, a House bill that passed that body in February by a vote of 240 – 190. Roanoke-area Congressmen Denver Riggleman (R-5th District), Ben Cline (R-6th District), and Morgan Griffith (R-9th District) voted against the bill.
In addition to domestic issues, Kaine also talked to WFXR News about President Trump’s recently-canceled Camp David peace talks which were to involve the Taliban and Afghan leaders.
“Normally, an administration would keep us in the loop,” Kaine said, noting that Congress was aware of dialogue but was caught off guard when the president announced he had invited Taliban leaders to the United States in the days leading up to the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
A peace was impossible in Afghanistan, Kaine suggested, without all stakeholders at the table including the Taliban. But he said the recently-canceled talks seemed like a public relations move on the part of President Trump. He said there appears to be no plan for ending America’s longest war.
“It looked like a rush job that was called prematurely,” Kaine said.
“There was a surreal quality to it and I think to most of us on the Hill, it kind of seemed like a half-baked P.R. effort more than a serious effort to close a deal that would provide safety in Afghanistan for Afghani’s, and also Americans.”