President Trump’s surrogates were all over the Sunday talk shows this weekend insisting that funding for the border wall with Mexico would have to be part of any spending deals to prevent a government shutdown. President Trump himself tweeted Monday morning, "The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members."
Democrats have insisted for months that they will not agree to any funding package that includes the wall. With both houses of Congress in session facing less than a week to broker a deal before reaching a deadline that triggers a partial shutdown, the stakes are high. After taking a hardline stance on Sunday and early Monday, the administration seemed to soften by Monday afternoon about forcing wall funding to be included in the deadline spending package.
Talk of the border wall has been in the news since the Trump campaign officially began in 2015, though the idea has changed considerably since those first days. Here’s a timeline of the issue to provide historical context for the present debate:
June 16, 2015: Donald Trump officially announces his candidacy for the presidency. Promises around the wall are immediate:
"I will build a great wall ― and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me ―and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
June 2015 - November 2016: Candidate Trump repeatedly uses rhetoric about building the wall to activate his base at campaign rallies, always insisting that Mexico will pay for it. Here he is in January 2016.
The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
November 10, 2016: Two days after the election Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani states in a CNN interview that President-elect Trump doesn’t need the support of Congress to build the wall; he can simply accomplish it through executive order. He also maintains that large portions of the wall have already been approved:
"The wall is going to take a while. Obviously he's going to build it. It's a campaign promise. He's not going to break a campaign promise..he can do it by executive order by just reprogramming money within the, within the immigration service...And not only that, they have actually approved a wall for certain portions of the border that hasn't even been built yet. So you could take a year building that out, with what has been approved."
November 13, 2016: President-elect Trump gives his first post-election interview to 60 minutes. In it he states that his "wall" now includes sections of fence. He also says in an interview with Fox News in Cincinnati, OH a few days later:
"Now, there are certain places you don’t need a wall, because you have, you know, you have mountains, you have other things. You have large and rather vicious rivers"
January 25, 2017: President Trump issues an executive order entitled "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements". It declares:
In accordance with existing law, including the Secure Fence Act and IIRIRA, take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border;
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto then responds in an official address. He states:
I am dismayed by and condemn the decision made by the United States to continue building a wall that for many years, far from uniting us, has divided us. Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said it again and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.
He subsequently cancels his official visit to the U.S.
January 26, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for the first time suggests that the president wants to impose a 20 percent import tax on goods from Mexico to pay for the wall, a plan related to a border adjustment tax floated by some Republicans at a GOP gathering in Philadelphia.
February 6, 2017: Skepticism among Republicans mounts regarding the administration’s plans to fund the wall, since no one believes that Mexico will fund it. CNN reports that many Republican leaders will refuse to consider a plan that isn’t offset by spending cuts. The No. 2 senator, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), said,
"I have concerns about spending un-offset money, which adds to the debt, period...I don't think we're just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier because people can come under, around it and through it."
February 9, 2017: Reuters obtains a report from the Dept. of Homeland Security that estimates the wall would cost approximately $21.6 billion. That’s nearly twice the $12 billion figure that President Trump cited on the campaign trail, and also higher than House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s estimates of $15 billion.
February 24, 2017: Via the website FedBizOpps.gov the federal government posts their intention to request proposals from construction companies on March 6 to build the wall. The posting reads:
The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017. The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.
The deadline was eventually delayed until April 4.
February 28, 2016: In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump declared:
We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders...For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.
March 9, 2017: Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduces the "No Taxpayer Funding For The Wall Act". It has 27 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and has been referred to the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees.
March 16, 2017: President Trump unveils his budget blueprint for 2018, which includes $2.6 billion for the wall. In the spending outline for the Department of Homeland Security it reads:
The President’s 2018 Budget...Secures the borders of the United States by investing $2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border
He also requests $1.5 billion to be added to spending for the current fiscal year. The administration begins suggesting that the funding for the wall be tied to the spending bills aimed at preventing government shutdown at the end of April.
March 28, 2017: Public discussions begin in earnest concerning the looming government shutdown deadline in a month. At the forefront of the discussion is whether or not President Trump will be able to include his current year funding request for the wall in the same package aimed at preventing a government shutdown.
Democrats still remain adamantly opposed to any funding for the wall and insist they will filibuster any spending package that includes it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sums up the Democratic position leading into the final legislative push before the deadline:
If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy
April 24, 2017: After the hardline stances of Sunday and Monday voiced by administration officials and the president concerning wall funding and the government shutdown, President Trump states at a reception with conservative media Monday afternoon that he’s willing to potentially delay border wall funding until September. A media member present reports the change to the president’s stance on Twitter. White House officials confirmed the report.
Republicans tamp down expectations that a continuous wall will be built along the entirety of the southern border. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated, flatly:
There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period...I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.
Democrats have suggested that they would be willing to include some monies in the spending package for increased border security in a compromise plan submitted Sunday morning, as long as it doesn’t include the wall.
Despite assurances that the administration is softening their stance concerning this week’s spending fight, the president continues to insist the wall will be built on Twitter throughout the day.
April 25, 2017: Will President Trump’s wall get funded this fiscal year? Will it, or anything resembling it, be included in the 2018 budget?
Regardless, any wall that gets approved will not be the idea of a wall that was born in that campaign speech nearly two years ago — not in terms of what it costs, what it looks like, or how it gets paid for.
Should Congress fund the wall? Use the "Take Action" button to tell your reps what you think!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: *Wonderlane via Flickr / Creative Commons)*
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