With attention finally shifting to next major – and potentially damaging – catalyst for the Trump administration and the governing Republicans, namely the all too real threat of a government shutdown on April 28, which falls on Day 100 of the Trump presidency, the most immediate casualty of the mounting financial considerations may be Trump’s marquee project, the “Great Big Wall” with Mexico. Specifically, Trump’s demand for $1.5 billion this year to fund the initial phase of wall construction along the Mexican border could be in jeopardy as fellow Republicans in Congress are delaying a decision on the request, according to Reuters; previously the news wire reported that the wall could end up costing as much as $21.6 billion, far more than the $12 billion Trump cited.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, confirmed that he had received the $1 billion request for supplemental funding that would build an estimated 62 miles of the border wall, according to The Hill. It also includes a $2.8 billion request for border infrastructure and technology for next year as well.
Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership, told reporters on Tuesday that money for the wall likely would not be coupled with a spending bill that must pass by April 28 to avoid shutting down federal agencies whose funding expires then. Blunt also said he was not willing to commit to the supplemental funding request. “All of the committees, House and Senate leaderships, are working together to try to finalize the rest of the FY17 bill,” he added. My guess is that “comes together better” without Trump’s additional request for the border wall and military programs and could be considered “at a later time.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) echoed a similar sentiment, telling Politico that funding the wall “remains to be seen…. What I would like to see is a plan for how the money would be spent and a good faith discussion about what border security is really composed of,” he said in an interview. “We haven’t had that.” Delaying the bill is meant to avoid a showdown between Democrats and Republicans that could result in a government shutdown. However, Cornyn remained positive that “there’s not going to be a shutdown.”
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart also expressed skepticism about Congress’ ability to approve funds for the wall, given the super-majority vote needed in the Senate for most major legislation. Asked about the wall, Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee and a leading voice on immigration policy, said: “I’m always willing to look at other things we can do to try to get that 60-vote threshold” on border and interior security.
In addition to threatening to withhold funding, the initiative has also faced resistance among Republicans, including lawmakers representing some border towns. The federal government would have to purchase land in many locations in order to construct the edifice, which could make construction costs soar.
While the Republican opposition comes as a surprise, it was to be expected that Democrats would oppose Trump’s project, and sure enough they have threatened to block the bill funding federal agencies from April 29 to Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year, if money for the border wall is included. Furthermore, Democrats say the Trump wall is poorly planned and that there already are other border security measures constructed or under consideration.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan removed another potential land mine on Tuesday when he said a Republican drive to end federal funding for women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood would be best accomplished on legislation other than the upcoming funding bill. Democrats have vowed to stop the must-do money bill if it ended Planned Parenthood’s federal funds. Some conservative Republicans have called it yet another concession by Ryan and the GOP to an otherwise weak Democratic party.