Senate Republicans may hand President Donald Trump a setback today on his emergency declaration for a border wall, but a couple of Republican lawmakers with strong ties to the Air Force have been particularly vocal about their support for the idea.
Kinzinger, who recently returned from a two-week deployment to the border with the Air National Guard, voted in favor of President Trump’s emergency declaration for the southern border Feb. 26. But enough Republicans joined the majority in the Democratic-controlled chamber to pass the resolution and send it to the Senate.
McSally has said she will vote today in favor of the emergency declaration to build the wall, even though it appears the Republican-controlled Senate will also pass the resolution to block it. McSally was among a handful of Republicans whose view of the issue remained unclear ahead of the vote on a House-passed resolution that could attract enough GOP support to pass both legislative chambers, but not enough to override Trump’s promised veto.
Here’s where some lawmakers with Air Force ties stand:
McSally, a former A-10 Warthog pilot who retired in 2010 as a colonel, said in a statement Wednesday evening that she has relayed to the Pentagon and the White House her home state’s concerns regarding maintaining military readiness, while also funding border security.
“Arizonans know there is a humanitarian and security crisis at the border — drugs are killing and harming loved ones in communities everywhere," McSally said, while promising that funding the border wall will not impact any Arizona military construction projects in fiscal 2019. "Now, it’s Congress’ turn to fully fund border security and our men and women in uniform.”
Kinzinger, an Air National Guard RC-26 pilot, returned in February after a two-week deployment flying surveillance missions over the Arizona border. During that time, he said, he helped interdict narcotics smugglers and spot stranded illegal immigrants stranded by human traffickers in the lethal desert environment.
“I think if this was just an issue of immigration it wouldn’t constitute a national emergency, but what I saw was really disturbing," Kinzinger said on the CBS news show “Face the Nation” Feb. 24, adding that he would not vote to try to block the president’s national emergency declaration.
“From my experience there were many, many groups that we would see on technology with camera radar or something like that that we could not go address because there were not enough Border Patrol agents,” he said.
Not all airmen who serve in Congress fall on the Republican side of the aisle.
California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, a currently serving Air Force Reserve JAG who represents portions of Los Angeles, called Trump’s national emergency declaration an “authoritarian power grab that will be struck down in the courts.”
Lieu said that based on the Trump administration’s own data, border apprehensions are down 75 percent from 2000 to 2018, and 80 to 90 percent of illegal drugs come through manned checkpoints, not the vast swaths of unguarded desert.
“In addition, Trump appears to seek to redirect funds from helping disaster-prone areas in California and military construction that helps military families," Lieu said in a statement Feb. 14. "Hurting disaster victims and military families to build a medieval wall is not the dumbest idea ever, but it comes pretty close.”
Not all Air Force JAGs are using their data points to oppose the president, though.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, another former Air Force Reserve JAG, has sided with the president on the border emergency issue.
Graham said in late February that President Barrack Obama had declared a humanitarian crisis at the southern border in 2014 after 120,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended. That number has already been reached in fiscal 2019, he added.
“During this time, I never heard any Democrat – in either the Senate or House of Representatives — say there was not a crisis at our southern border," Graham said. “In fact, they agreed and were willing to spend billions to fix it. The problems of 2014 are only getting worse.”