In what is shaping up to be another embarrassing legislative retreat, the Republicans are expected to cut funding for Donald Trump’s promised southern border security wall from the budget.
At the end of March, Trump submitted a formal request for $1.4 billion for the first 62 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. To “Build The Wall,” of course, was a central promise of his campaign and one on which most Republican lawmakers seemed to support him. However, Paul Ryan has now made clear that the GOP will not take the first opportunity, a spending bill to be finalized this month, to include funding for the initial stages of the new security fence.
Like the Obamacare repeal and replace effort , Ryan promised that his party would eventually come to agreement and find a way to get Trump’s agenda passed. But a chorus of voices from both sides of the aisle are making such optimism look about as convincing as the former vow.
The biggest hurdle for the right is the sheer cost of the wall, which a February Department of Homeland Security report estimated could be as much as $21.6 billion. Other estimates have put the cost at nearly double that amount. Another concern raised by lawmakers is disruption of the lives of those living on the border, with the project expected to take nearly four years to complete, while others have complained that the wall will hurt relations with Mexico.
As The Hill highlights, two particularly vocal Republican critics are Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), both of whom represent border districts, who recently issued a joint statement to the administration expressing concern about being “good stewards” of tax dollars. “We recognize the need for robust border security and infrastructure to ensure public safety and increase cross border commerce, We also have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” they wrote.
Both Sen. John McCain and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have expressed concern about the wall damaging relations with Mexico. “There is a lot of anti-American sentiment in Mexico. If the election were tomorrow in Mexico, you’d probably have a left-wing, anti-American president in Mexico. That can’t be good for America,” McCain told Kelly in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last Wednesday, a sentiment with which Kelly agreed.
The Democrats are seizing on the discord among Republicans and pointing to what they portray as Trump’s already failed promises concerning the wall, namely that Mexico would pay for it, and that he would have the political capital to get his party to prioritize the project.
With the establishment media already flipping the “government shutdown” script to figure out a way to make a budget impasse the Republicans’ fault, rather than the obstructionist Democrats — despite having blamed Republicans in 2013 when they were in the minority in the Senate — thus far the GOP leadership appears unwilling to take the political risk to push through the Trump agenda.
With poll numbers on “The Wall” looking bad for the right and the increasingly feckless leadership of Ryan, hopes of securing the southern border are looking grim. We will soon learn if Trump has the political capital to unify Republicans and force them to take some hard stands.