Julianna Rennie
By Julianna Rennie November 6, 2019

Did Thom Tillis vote to let Trump administration raid $80 million from NC military projects?

Democrats say President Trump’s border wall has raided North Carolina of $80 million for military projects with the support of the state’s Republican senator Thom Tillis. 

Trump decided the money was needed because, contrary to his stump speech rallying cry, Mexico won’t foot the bill for the wall. Instead, the funds will come from military construction projects across the United States and abroad. 

Trump gained access to those funds after declaring a national emergency at the southern border. Congress has voted twice — first in March and then in late September — to block the emergency declaration. But both times, Democrats were unable to secure a two-thirds majority and Trump vetoed the measures.

After the most recent vote, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called out Tillis, who voted against blocking the president’s emergency declaration.

The DSCC’s tweet said, "Thom Tillis yet again voted to support Trump’s irresponsible emergency declaration — even though he knows it will allow the administration to raid $80 million from North Carolina. Tillis’ vote is putting military communities in harm’s way."

We wondered if it’s true that Tillis supported the emergency declaration and whether North Carolina actually stands to lose $80 million.

Trump used the National Emergencies Act to secure border wall funding 

During the 2016 campaign, President Trump promised to build a wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for it. When Congress reached a stalemate over funding border security, Trump decided to act on his own. He declared a national emergency at the southern border, an initial step toward building the wall. 

He acted under the National Emergencies Act, which authorizes the administration to "undertake military construction projects … not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces."

The move angered some members of Congress who believed that Trump was abusing the National Emergencies Act. Tillis even wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post that said the emergency declaration "was not the right answer." 

But when Congress voted to overturn the emergency declaration in March, Tillis sided with Trump. He voted to uphold the president’s action both times. (The reversal earned Tillis a Full Flop on PolitiFact’s Flip-O-Meter.)

On the Senate floor, he explained that he did not take issue with Trump’s action, but instead was concerned that the National Emergencies Act gives future presidents too much power.

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"My main concern with this executive action is future potential abuses. I have a concern with the executive action that the president took, the emergency order. That’s why I voiced it," Tillis said. "But I’m sympathetic to what he was trying to do … and I thought we could view this as an opportunity to where maybe we could have a discussion about the National Emergencies Act and potentially make a real difference here."

Tillis is a co-sponsor of the Article One Act, which was introduced days before the March vote and would automatically end emergency declarations after 30 days. The measure has stalled in the Senate since then.

But in the meantime, Tillis is supporting Trump’s decision to divert funding from military bases around the world. The National Emergencies Act requires the money for the wall come from other military construction projects that have been appropriated, but not obligated, by Congress. That means the administration has to take money from dozens of projects, such as a fire and crash rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, a dining facility at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, and a small arms range at Truax Field in Wisconsin.

NC to lose $80 million

The Pentagon listed each project affected by the national emergency at the southern border. It includes four at North Carolina military bases, and they do in fact total $80 million as the DSCC claims. 

The North Carolina projects are a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, an elementary school at Fort Bragg, and a tanker storage facility at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. None of the projects were scheduled to break ground until 2020.

But while the DSCC’s statement is accurate, there’s an important caveat. Almost $33 million of the $80 million would have been reallocated anyway because the $32.9 million Fort Bragg school project had already been canceled "due to declining enrollment." The construction of the school would have been canceled regardless of Trump’s emergency declaration and its funding could have been reallocated to other projects in North Carolina or elsewhere. (Fort Bragg has several urgent needs, including a $21 million fire station.)

In a September town hall, Tillis acknowledged the $80 million shift in funding but said, "Half of that was for a project at Fort Bragg that was not moving forward."

Funding for the other three projects remains uncertain, but Tillis has given assurances that Congress can replenish the money. In an op-ed in the Greensboro News & Record, Tillis wrote that Congress "has plenty of time to re-allocate funding" and called on other members of Congress to vote for the National Defense Authorization Act.

Our ruling

The DSCC said Tillis supported Trump’s emergency declaration, which enabled the administration to raid $80 million from North Carolina military projects.

The group is correct that the Trump administration diverted $80 million that had been appropriated by Congress for four military projects in North Carolina. But that included an elementary school at Fort Bragg that had already been canceled. 

The claim is accurate but needs additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Senate Democrats, tweet

Phone Interview, Stewart Boss, national press secretary for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Oct. 18, 2019

Email Interview, Andrew Romeo, communications director for Thom Tillis for Senate, Oct. 25, 2019

Phone Interview, Evan Hollander, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, Oct. 24, 2019

Letter from the Acting Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, "Military Construction Necessary to Support the Use of the Armed Forces in Addressing the National Emergency at the Southern Border," Sept. 3, 2019

CNBC, "Senate votes again to block Trump’s national emergency over the border but fails to get veto-proof majority," Sept. 26, 2019

Raleigh News & Observer, "Fort Bragg among N.C. military bases to take $80M hit to fund Trump’s border wall," Sept. 4, 2019

PolitiFact, "By supporting Trump, Tillis completely reverses course," March 20, 2019

National Emergencies Act

Roll Call Vote H.J. Res. 46, March 14, 2019

Roll Call Vote S.J. Res. 54, Sept. 25, 2019 

Video on c-span.org, "Senators Lee, Tillis and Schumer on Terminating Border Emergency Declaration," March 14, 2019

The Washington Post, "I support Trump’s vision on border security. But I would vote against the emergency.," Feb. 25, 2019

NPR, "These Are The Military Projects Losing Funding To Trump's Border Wall," Sept. 4, 2019

Greensboro News & Record, "Sen. Thom Tillis: Media were unfair and inaccurate in stories about military funds for the border wall," Sept. 13, 2019

ABC 11, "Tillis addresses housing concerns, more at Fort Bragg town hall," Sept. 27, 2019

Fayetteville Observer, "Our View: Tillis did not stand up to Trump for state’s military funding," Sept. 21, 2019

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Did Thom Tillis vote to let Trump administration raid $80 million from NC military projects?

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