House GOP's $1.6 Billion Border Wall Plan Sets Up Fight

  • Republicans seek to add funds to Homeland Security bill
  • Democrats have said they will oppose any funding for wall

A person walks near a section of the border wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico.

Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg

House Republicans unveiled a spending bill Tuesday that includes funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, setting up a clash with Democrats that risks a government shutdown later this year.

The House Appropriations Committee is proposing to add $1.6 billion for the wall to the Homeland Security spending bill, raising its total to $44.3 billion, even as other domestic agencies face cuts in the coming fiscal year.

“This funding bill provides the resources to begin building a wall along our southern border, enhance our existing border security infrastructure, hire more border patrol agents, and fund detention operations,” Representative John Carter of Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, said in a statement.

The bill would also provide an extra $620 million increase for interior immigration enforcement actions, including a 10 percent increase in the number of detention beds used to house undocumented immigrants.

Funding Fight

In May, congressional Republicans provided none of the $3 billion in extra physical border wall and deportation funding sought by Trump for the fiscal 2017 omnibus spending bill.

On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to have Mexico pay for the border wall. Mexico refused and in his fiscal 2018 budget request, Trump asked Congress to pay the bill.

Including border funding could help House Speaker Paul Ryan head off an uprising among conservative Republicans. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina has demanded funding for the border wall in the bill, arguing that Republicans would revolt on the bill if it were not included.

"I’m glad to see that the border wall remains an important priority for the House and the president," Meadows said in a statement that also suggests the amount may need to be increased.

Showdown Coming

Congress is heading to a showdown over spending that could lead to a government shutdown when the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Democrats have said they are unwilling to vote for a bill that funds Trump’s border wall or a "deportation force." At least eight Democratic votes will be needed in the Senate for any funding bill to be enacted.

"Democrats will again draw a hard line against wasting taxpayer money to fulfill the president’s campaign applause line," said Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for Democrats on the Appropriations Committee. "The purpose of the Homeland Security bill is to make communities more safe and secure, and this pointless wall does nothing to accomplish that."

After signing the fiscal 2017 spending bill, Trump expressed his unhappiness with the lack of border wall funding. Trump took to Twitter to suggest that a "good" shutdown may be needed to achieve his spending priorities such as the border wall.

With Republican leaders wary of a shutdown, the clash over the border wall is more likely to lead to a stopgap spending bill in September that may end up putting the government on autopilot for a year.

An alternative could be another bipartisan deal with Democrats where the wall funds become a bargaining chit. Republicans in the appropriations process are attempting to boost the defense spending cap by $72 billion, which would require Democratic votes.  

Democrats will be looking for an increase to domestic spending, commitments to tax-code changes that don’t add to the deficit and an increase in the debt ceiling without any conditions.

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