MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Bradley Byrne are from different parties and …
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Three Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives took a break Friday from campaigning against one another to denounce President Donald Trump’s plan to use defense funds to build a border wall.
Standing in Cooper Riverside Park across from Austal USA, Rick Collins, Kiani Gardner and James Averhart took turns criticizing the Trump administration’s plan to redirect $261 million slated for a Navy project at the shipyard.
“This current proposal would directly rob our community of $261 million that should be going to the Austal shipyard to build an Expeditionary Fast Transport ship,” Gardner said.
The Austal money is part of $3.8 billion that the administration has targeted to fund 177 miles of roads, fencing and lighting as part of a plan to block drug trafficking corridors.
Collins noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall.
“Today, we’re told that the American people are gonna pay for it, and we’re gonna divert money from important military concerns to the wall,” he said. “Behind us is Austal. And we stand to lose a lot of local jobs if this goes through.”
Added Averhart: “This decision hits home with the proposal to deflect funds from the DOD budget, which encompasses funds allocated to build the warship, much like that one behind us.”
The Expeditionary Fast Transport, or EPF, is a fast-moving catamaran designed to transport military cargo and personnel. Austal officials have said the facility has a backlog of work, but candidates from both parties have raised alarm over the prospects of using funds earmarked for the EPF for the wall.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who is leaving his House seat to run for the Senate, said he opposes the move and argued the vessel is important to Trump’s goal of building a 355-ship Navy.
But Gardner said Byrne has not been nearly forceful enough.
“His unwillingness to take a firm stand and protect this district is a true betrayal of all of us,” she said.
Collins praised Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) for his leadership on the issue.
“This matter transcends partisan politics,” he said. “Our Republican representatives must stand with Sen. Jones and tell President Trump to find a better way to fund the wall on the southern border.”
All three Democrats said they oppose building a border wall even if it does not involve transferring money from weapons systems.
“We do not need a wall,” Averhart said. “I do not support funding a wall.”
Two Republican candidates for the seat told FOX10 News that they support the wall but oppose using money from the defense budget.
“The radical liberals in Washington have abandoned our national sovereignty with their open borders agenda, and they’ve left President Trump with no good options to ensure our southern border is secure,” former state Sen. Bill Hightower said in a statement. “We should both secure our border and continue expanding the military ship building here in South Alabama, though the Democrats clearly want to do neither.”
Restaurateur Wes Lambert agreed.
“I’m for the wall,” he said. “But I think we can fund a wall without taking it from defense.”