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House Armed Services chairman says military funding should not be spent on wall

As a partial government shutdown threatens the weekend before Christmas, House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said that he did not support repurposing military money to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in an interview with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett for "The Takeout" podcast. "I am not for taking away money from that effort to fund anything else." Thornberry said. 

However, he added that Congress needs to "adequately fund border security," a sticking point as Congress and President Trump negotiate over the stopgap funding. Mr. Trump has said that he will not sign any spending bill which does not include $5 billion to build a border wall, a nonstarter with Democrats.

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"It is a bad idea to take money away for urgent needs from the Department of Defense to use for any other purpose," Thornberry said. However, he said that if the president did want to reprogram the money, he would need approval from Congress. At this point, however, House Republicans have passed a bill that has the president's wall funding, but it's virtually certain to fail in the Senate. 

Thornberry also acknowledged that "the wall alone will not solve this problem" of illegal immigration. "You have to have people, technology, and physical barriers in key places" on the border, he said.

The House Armed Services chairman also discussed the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, and the president's desire to draw down U.S. troops in that country. Late Thursday, CBS News confirmed that Mr. Trump plans to draw down half the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. "I think the president is frustrated with the lack of progress over the years, and a lot of that of course was before his time," Thornberry said. 

At the same time, Thornberry said he disagreed with the president's decision to withdraw from Syria. "It is important for us to have a limited presence there for terrorism and for the stability that we help provide," he said. 

For more of Major's conversation with Mac Thornberry, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook

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