U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., speaks at a Tulsa Regional Chamber luncheon in December. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Thursday that President Donald Trump is “left with no choice” but to declare a national emergency to secure funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We need to secure the border, and Democrats refuse to acknowledge an ongoing crisis,” Inhofe said after voting against a budget agreement Thursday that avoids a government shutdown but gives Trump far less for the border wall than he wanted.

“Instead of a real investment in the wall, it gives the President less than the original budget request and far less than Customs and Border Patrol agents say we need,” Inhofe said in a written statement.

Oklahoma’s other U.S. senator, James Lankford, voted for the measure. Lankford did not comment on the possible emergency declaration, but said the funding package as a whole included money vital for many phases of government.

“Though the ... public debate centered on border security, the funding package also included vital funding for 25 percent of the federal government’s operations,” Lankford said.

“In addition to the vital provisions on border security fencing, the bill funds new immigration judges, increases border security agents, and maintains ICE’s ability to detain individuals who do not have legal status.”

Democrats and many independent observers dispute the claim that an emergency exists. They note that illegal immigration to the U.S. is approaching a 20-year low, and that border officials say most smuggling occurs at controlled entries.

The budget agreement by congressional leaders includes $23 billion for border security, but only $1.4 billion for new physical barriers such as walls and fences. That’s far less than the $5.7 billion sought by Trump and less even than a deal he turned down last fall.

Trump said he’ll sign the budget package but declare a national emergency to access other funds for the wall. That move is expected to meet several court challenges.

Even Inhofe expressed reservations because of the likelihood that at least some of the money for the wall would come from defense appropriations.

“I want to make sure this declaration has minimal, if any, impact on our military and reimburse all the necessary accounts affected by the decision,” said Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Military housing and all military installations are facing disrepair and poor conditions. We cannot afford to allow them to be further impacted.”

Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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