In a move that only strengthens the resolve of American governance to actually build a wall on the U.S-Mexico border, President Donald Trump on March 11th, will ask the U.S. Congress for an additional $8.6 billion. This is towards the promised wall that will help combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The demand, which drew swift criticism from Democrats, is more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.
Democrats, who oppose the wall as unnecessary and immoral, control the U.S. House of Representatives, making it difficult and most unlikely that the Republican president’s request will win the agreement. On the other hand, the Republicans control the Senate.
The proposal comes on the heels of a bruising battle with Congress over wall funding that resulted in a five-week partial federal government shutdown that ended in January, and could touch off a sequel just ahead of a trifecta of ominous fiscal deadlines looming this fall.
“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement on Sunday, March 10.
“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,” said the two top Democrats in Congress.
Asked on Fox News Sunday about the new wall funding request and if there would be another budget fight, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “I suppose there will be … He’s going to stay with his wall and he’s going to stay with the border security theme. I think it’s essential.”
Broadly speaking on the budget, Kudlow told Fox, “The president is proposing roughly a 5 percent across-the-board reduction in domestic spending accounts.”
Regardless of whether Congress passes it, the budget request could help Trump frame his argument on border security as the 2020 presidential race begins to take shape, with the president hopeful of re-election.
“Build the wall” was one of his signature campaign pledges in his first run for office in 2016. “Finish the wall” is already a feature of his re-election campaign.
“We have provided the course of action, the strategy and the request to finish the job. It’s a question of, will Congress allow us to finish the job,” a second administration official said.
So far, only 111 miles (179 km) have been built or are under way, officials said. In fiscal 2017, $341 million in funding was allocated for 40 miles (64 km) of wall, and in 2018, another $1.375 billion was directed to 82 miles (132 km).
For fiscal 2019, Trump demanded $5.7 billion in wall funds, but Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border fencing projects.