About once every other month, sewage backs up into the classrooms, restrooms and the kitchen at a child development center inside Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County.
When those overflows happen, the affected children – who range from six weeks to five years old – are moved to other areas of the building, which was originally constructed in 1941 to be a hospital. The kitchen can’t be used to make meals when the backups occur. If spaghetti is on the menu for lunch, staff scramble to cook spaghetti in another building down the road.
A $13 million replacement child care center was slated to be built in 2020, but it was among the 127 projects whose funding was diverted by the Trump administration to fund a $3.6 billion wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In Maryland, three military projects had $66.5 million in funds diverted. The child development center and a hazardous cargo pad at Joint Base Andrews have had their funding deferred, as has a road improvement project at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.
And Maryland Democratic lawmakers who tried (and failed) to keep President Trump from diverting the funds are furious about it.
“President Trump says that Mexico is paying for the wall; military families are paying for this wall, and that’s just outrageous,” said Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Friday at Joint Base Andrews after touring the existing childcare facility.
Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D), who also toured the facility and whose 4th District is home to Joint Base Andrews, called it “troubling” that American taxpayers were paying for Trump’s “vanity project” due to the president’s “unconstitutional power grab.”
The kids at the child development center have “great teachers and administrators,” Brown said, but “they don’t deserve to be in a facility where the kitchen is inoperable many days of the year because of sewage backups.”
The proposed new child care center would also have additional capacity, Cardin said. Now, there are about 200 families on the waiting list. Families who use childcare off the base can spend around $10,000 more per year more for childcare costs, he said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has also decried what he called an “unconstitutional power grab” by Trump to divert military funding for border wall construction.
“Taxpayers are having to pay for this wall and service men and women and the families of service men and women are bearing the brunt of this latest raid,” Van Hollen said on the Senate floor this week.
Earlier this year, both chambers of Congress voted to block Trump’s national emergency declaration, his attempt to circumvent the legislative branch to fund a border wall. But the House failed to override Trump’s veto, sending the fight to the courts.
Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) was slated to visit Fort Meade on Friday in his 2nd District to view the roads where improvements to reduce bottlenecks and congestion have been delayed indefinitely.
Fort Meade – home to the National Security Agency, U.S. Cyber Command and many other federal agencies – is the largest employer in Maryland and continues to grow, according to Ruppersberger’s office.
“We don’t want these men and women sitting in traffic jams – we want them doing their jobs, keeping us safe,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “These projects have a far bigger impact on the security of our nation and the quality of life enjoyed by our troops and their families than a boondoggle wall that Mexico was supposed to finance.”
Maryland’s House delegation split along party lines in February when the chamber voted on a resolution to block Trump’s emergency declaration. The state’s lone Republican, Rep. Andrew P. Harris, opposed it, and the state’s seven House Democrats supported it.
Cardin and Van Hollen joined every other Senate Democrat and 12 Senate Republicans who voted in March to overturn Trump’s declaration.