Senate Republicans Trump Wall Funding, allies give OK to $5B wall request.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a spending bill that includes $5 billion for President Trump’s proposed border wall, setting up a battle with Democrats that could prompt a government shutdown.
The money, included in a $70.8 billion Homeland Security appropriations bill, would fully fund Trump’s fiscal year 2020 request for the wall.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the chairman of the subcommittee that handled the request, estimated it would bring total funding for Trump’s wall to $14.8 billion, a figure that includes funds Trump reprogrammed from other departments using emergency powers.
Most Democrats are expected to vote against the measure at a full committee markup Thursday, and eventually oppose it on the Senate floor.
Since Trump took office, the wall has become a central hurdle in the annual appropriations process.
The issue has derailed several other spending bills in the past two weeks, and preempted the Senate Appropriations Committee from debating bills on health and military construction.
Democrats opposed to Trump’s redirection of funds for the wall have insisted on including riders that would block Trump from using emergency powers to empty relevant accounts. They’ve also refused to backfill funds for projects affected by Trump’s reprogramming.
“Those diversions are going to have to be addressed one way or another, otherwise it will be very hard to finish our work on all 12 appropriations bills, including this one,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
He also raised concerns about the Interior Department’s transfer of jurisdiction over some federal land to the U.S. Army for the purpose of building the wall
“I’m appalled and angered that the Interior Department is a party to this unlawful land grab and plans to hand over our precious public lands so that the president can build his vanity project with funds he raided from the military,” Udall said.
Udall did not go as far as calling on Democrats to vote against the Interior spending bill at Thursday’s committee markup.
Centrist senators, such as Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) have struggled with how to approach the wall.
Both have signaled support for the wall, but cited serious concerns over Trump’s emergency declaration, which they said undermined Congress’s constitutionally mandated power of the purse.
“To me there’s a very clear line about the roles and the responsibilities,” said Murkowski. “It’s not for the executive to then come in and take from different accounts to supplement their priorities.”
Murkowski was among 12 Republicans who supported a bipartisan resolution overturning the emergency declaration. The resolution did not get the two-thirds majority needed to overturn Trump’s veto, but the Senate is set to vote on a second such resolution Wednesday.
“We’ve got to stand up, we’ve got to be a Senate, we’ve got to be a legislative body. If we don’t there’s no need for us to be here. No need at all if we can’t do our job,” said Manchin, who is expected to be the lone Democrat supporting the Homeland Security bill on Thursday.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), another appropriator, said he supported the wall but raised concerns about the costs.
“We built 2,700 miles of walls along our interstates in America for $4 billion, about $1.5 million per mile,” he said Tuesday. The plan in question put the wall’s cost at $20.8 million per mile.
“I understand these border walls are a lot more complicated,” Kennedy said, before adding, “I sure hope somebody’s watching the contractors.”
To prevent a shutdown, the Senate is preparing to approve a stopgap measure on Wednesday that would keep the government funded until Nov. 21. Trump is expected to sign the bill, which was approved by the House last week.
Staff-level discussions between the two chambers have begun in hopes of finding a consensus on spending for the entirety of the fiscal year, but the path forward remains unclear and additional stopgaps may be necessary.
The wall is one reason for the uncertainty. Last December, Congress’s refusal to provide Trump with the $5.7 billion he requested for the wall led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in the nation’s history.
The final 2019 spending bill provided under $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of new border fencing in Texas, but also led Trump to declare an emergency allowing him to reprogram other funds for his top campaign issue.