Donald Trump started talking about a border wall at the start of his presidential campaign and he’s never stopped. Now, he says he will shut down the government if Congress doesn’t include $5 billion for the wall in the spending bill they must pass by December 21st.
According to the federal website “Walls Work,” $5 billion would pay for the construction of 330 miles of border wall.
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“A lot of the wall is [already] built. It has been very effective,” Trump said last week during a meeting with Democratic lawmakers, going on to list questionable statistics about illegal traffic in areas with existing barriers. “The only reason we have any percentage where people got through is because they walk and go around areas that are not built. [Illegal traffic] dropped virtually 100% in the areas where the wall is. It is very effective.”
Democratic leaders responded to Trump’s demand with an offer to provide $1.6 billion for border security in 2019, but Trump says it’s not enough.
“The president has his own style and way of negotiating,” says Senator John Thune (R-SD). “The only thing I would say is, it’s just simple math: that you’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s going to require Democrats.”
Speaking about Trump’s threat to shut down the government, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) says Trump will realize “that a shutdown is really not going to gain anything for his position and, in a lot of ways, is more damaging to the American people.”
Other lawmakers insist the shutdown would be no big deal. “The fact is, the vast majority of the government is not going to be shut down under any scenario,” says Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). “So there’s this little tiny sliver, and within that universe, anybody that is an essential employee still works. So I think this has all gotten a lot overblown.”
Failure to pass a spending bill by December 21st would result in a partial shutdown affecting about 25% of the federal government’s discretionary budget. The shutdown would not affect HHS, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, or the Pentagon.
Agencies that could be forced to send employees home without pay include the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, Transportation, the State Department and NASA.
Trump in recent days also suggested Mexico would help pay for the border wall by way of the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement.
“I often stated…Mexico is going to pay for the Wall,” tweeted Trump. “This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”
As it stands, less than one third of the 2,000 mile border with Mexico has a security fence of any kind.
And while Trump has managed to boost funding for the DHS and oversee repairs on 31 miles of existing barriers, no progress has been made on a new wall. CBP in November awarded two contracts for border wall construction in South Texas; when completed, these projects will cover less than 20 miles.
In the meantime, illegals and drugs continue to pour into the country.
During the 2018 budget year, CPB agents arrested nearly 400,000 people trying to cross the border. This is up from about 300,000 last year. In 2017, CBP seized over 800,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 15,000 pounds of heroin from smugglers at the border.
Editor’s note: As I have said many times, in 30 years Americans will look back and realize that the border wall was President Trump’s most important initiative.