The US-Mexico border wall was an integral part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would foot the bill, although it was never clear how he planned to accomplish this.
Trump’s “skinny budget,” released on Thursday, asks Congress for a $1.5 billion down payment for the wall.
“This investment would strengthen border security, helping stem the flow of people and drugs illegally crossing the US borders,” said Trump. His funding request is part of a larger, $30 billion request aimed to boost defense spending and other border security measures as Trump seeks to speed up the rate of deportations.
Officials estimate the wall could cost $20 billion or more, and Mexico continues to refuse Trump’s demands to contribute.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says the initial $1.5 billion will be used to develop technologies and locations for the wall. “I think the funding provides for a couple of pilot cases … different kinds of barriers in different kinds of places. We try and find the most cost-efficient, the safest and also the most effective border protections.”
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is expected to submit proposals for border wall designs soon. CBP initially said it planned to build “concrete wall structures, nominally 30 feet tall, that will meet requirements for aesthetics, anti-climbing, and resistance to tampering or damage.”
Trump’s proposed budget for FY2018 includes an additional $2.6 billion for the wall. The combined $4.1 billion in funding is more than 10x what Obama asked for “the acquisition and maintenance of technology and tactical infrastructure along US borders,” reports Politico.
There’s also the problem of hiring enough people to secure the border. Far from the 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 ICE personnel he promised, Trump’s budget (through 2018) calls for hiring only 500 of the former and 1,000 of the latter.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats insist they will not move forward with a budget that includes funding for the border wall. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warns that the ensuing fight could cause a government shutdown.
This problem could be avoided if funding for the wall is dealt with as a supplemental bill that is separate from the broader funding bill.
“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration,” wrote Schumer in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump’s spending plans are also facing opposition from Republicans. “We shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done,” complains Senator James Lankford (R-OK).
“I don’t care at all as long as Mexico’s paying for it – it’s neither here nor there for me. But if we’re paying for it, it’s a significant concern,” says Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Lawmakers have until April 28th to make up their minds and avoid a government shutdown.