Trump Budget Sets Stage For Renewed Fight Over Border Wall Funding 

March 11, 2019 by Dan McCue
The six contractors constructing eight prototype border wall sections in San Diego's Otay Mesa have finished their entries ahead of a news conference announcing the completion of the prototypes on October 26, 2017. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

If there was anything about President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year that surprised no one on Capitol Hill Monday, it was his apparent willingness to revive the nasty fight over funding of his border wall that led to a 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year.

What’s more, he appeared to want to up the ante by seeking $8.6 billion for his signature project.

“This president wants $8.6 billion for his ineffective border wall, but wants to cut money from: education, healthcare, environmental protection, and Medicare and Medicaid,” a chagrined House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said via Twitter shortly after the spending plan was released.

‏The budget request would more than double the amount already potentially available to the president for the wall after he declared a national emergency at the border last month in order to circumvent Congress.

Democrats immediately rejected the new border wall proposal.

“Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York in a joint statement.

They said the money “would be better spent on rebuilding America.”

Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat who sits on the House Committee on the Budget, greeted the border wall funding request with resignation Monday.

“Any proposed budget is a political document. This one reflects President Trump’s values … and I didn’t agree with much of it,” he said.

“As for the border wall itself. That has been his signature political promise — although he did promise someone else would pay for it. And he obviously wasn’t satisfied with the budget Congress agreed to and that he signed to end the partial government shutdown,” he said.

Peters went on to describe the president as “pretty hard-headed.”

“While he’s portrayed himself as a deal maker, he doesn’t really seem to be willing to compromise,” the congressman said. “So I’m not surprised that he asked for more money … but of course it’s a nonstarter with the Democrats.”

Peters noted that during the last Congress, Republicans and Democrats agreed on doing a mile-by-mile survey at the entire border to figure out what method of security worked best for each mile.

“We were looking at whether a sensor worked best at one location, if radar or tunnel detection equipment was better somewhere else … and what we could do at the ports-of-entry, which is where 90 percent of the drugs that come into this country come in,” he said. “Just last month, with the last budget that we approved, we invested a half billion dollars to improve screening there. That’s the kind of border security I think Republicans and Democrats can agree on.”

Trump invoked the emergency declaration last month after Congress approved $1.4 billion for border barriers, far less than the $5.7 billion request that led to the shutdown standoff. In doing so, he can potentially tap an additional $3.6 billion from military accounts and shift it to building the wall.

The Senate is poised to vote this week to kill Trump’s national emergency declaration, following the lead of the Democratically-controlled House, which did so last week.

While there appear to be enough votes in the Senate to reject Trump’s emergency declaration, opponents in Congress do not currently have enough votes to overturn the president’s promised veto.

In addition to border wall funding, the proposed budget will also increase funding to increase the “manpower” of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Customs and Border Patrol. Many Democrats have already called for cuts of those areas, making a protracted, border-centric budget negotiation now all but inevitable.

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