In a move that exemplifies President Trump’s reputation as a fighter, the White House plans to ask Congress to approve $8.6 billion for a border wall in the 2020 budget. The move comes only weeks after a stinging defeat in which the president was forced to accept a spending package that reopened the government without funding for Mr. Trump’s signature project. It seems unlikely that the 2020 funding request will be any more successful, but, like a beaten and bloody boxer who just won’t quit, President Trump refuses to stay down for the count.
Reuters reports that the proposal is based on a 2017 Customs and Border Protection plan to build or replace 722 miles of barriers along the border. The cost for the entire project is $18 billion. So far, 111 miles of the project have been completed or are under construction after Congress approved $341 million in 2017 and $1.375 billion in 2018. The estimated cost of the barrier is about $25 million per mile.
After Congress rejected his 2018 request for $5.7 billion, Mr. Trump declared a national emergency and attempted to redirect $8.1 billion from other projects to the wall. The House has already voted to block the president’s emergency declaration and the Senate is likely to follow suit this week. There are already lawsuits challenging the national emergency declaration as well, leaving an uncertain future for these redirected funds.
“It gives the president the ability to say he has fulfilled his commitment to gain operational control of the southwest border,” an administration official said of the 2020 budget request. A second added, “It’s a question of, will Congress allow us to finish the job.”
The Trump Administration’s request for 2020 seems likely to be dead on arrival in Congress. With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, where spending bills originate, the money is unlikely to be included in appropriations. Even in the Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats have enough votes to filibuster a bill that includes funding for the wall. The situation sets up a repeat of the budgetary showdown from last December that led to the government shutdown and ultimate Republican capitulation.
“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. We hope he learned his lesson,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement, in which they called the wall “expensive and ineffective.”
Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that the wall won’t be as effective as President Trump claims. Testing in 2017 showed that the wall prototypes built by the Trump Administration were easy to penetrate and many unfenced areas of the border are unsuitable for a defensive wall in the first place. Statistics from Customs and Border Patrol also call into question the effectiveness of the wall at stopping drug smugglers. The CBP found that about 90 percent of illegal drugs are smuggled through ports of entry rather than unfenced areas of the border. Other smuggling uses tunnels under existing border fences.
Border protection is one of the few parts of the government that is slated for an increase in the 2020 budget request. On Fox News Sunday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “The president is proposing roughly a five percent across-the-board reduction in domestic spending accounts.”
In contrast, the Administration is asking for a five percent increase for the Department of Homeland Security. This figure includes a 22 percent increase in funding for Customs and Border Protection and a 16 percent increase for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In addition to the wall funding, the proposal would authorize 2,800 more law enforcement agents and 100 immigration judge teams. In January, The Resurgent reported that despite an authorization from Congress to hire thousands of new Border Patrol agents, the agency had only been able to recruit 120 people.
If President Trump’s request to spend more money on the border is likely to go unheeded, his request to cut the budget of other domestic agencies will probably fare no better. Democrats have proven unwilling to cut programs that are not defense-related, even as the national debt climbs above $22 trillion. The budget deficit for the current fiscal year has already increased by 77 percent amid increased spending on the military and entitlements and flat revenues following the 2017 tax reform.
Congress won’t approve President Trump’s budget request for either the wall funding or the spending cuts, but the request will ensure that the debate over border security won’t go away before the 2020 election. The arguments next year may be similar to those heard ahead of the 2018 midterms. While Republican candidates reprise their base-pleasing call to “Build the wall,” Democrats are likely to use the skyrocketing deficit as part of their case against re-electing President Trump.
Originally published on The Resurgent