President Donald Trump is expected to request another $8.6 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border when he submits his 2020 budget to Congress on Monday, which is sure to ignite another powder keg on Capitol Hill.
The White House will reportedly propose $2.7 trillion in cuts to nondefense discretionary spending over the next decade, reducing spending by 5 percent next year, Trump’s top budget official said Sunday. The administration offered no details on the spending cuts while also proposing increases on some military matters and on veterans health care.
Of course, Congress will never approve of the budget because Democrats control the House and spending bills need bipartisan support to make it through the Senate. The budget is merely a blueprint for what the administration wishes to focus its efforts on and a starting point for negotiations, with the 2020 fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1.
Democrats immediately went on the attack, and even some GOP aides said the budget is unrealistic, though, sticking to the normal budget process was preferred over yet another government shutdown, the last setting a record for longest ever.
“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,” reads a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“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.”
The latest border wall funding demand is more than six times higher than what Congress has allocated for border security projects the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than what Trump is trying to take after declaring a national emergency in order to bypass Congress for funding to build his long-promised border wall.
Per Reuters, which broke the story Sunday:
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 seeking 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, a rallying cry plastered across banners and signs at his campaign rallies.
“It gives the president the ability to say he has fulfilled his commitment to gain operational control of the southwest border,” an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the budget request.
“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.
Funding legislation needs to be passed before Oct. 1 — the start of the 2020 federal fiscal year — or the government could shut down again. If Congress and the White House fail to agree to lift mandatory spending caps set in a 2011 law, steep automatic cuts in many programs would kick in. Around the same time, Trump and lawmakers must agree to lift the debt ceiling, or risk a default, which would have chaotic economic fallout.
722 MILES OF WALL
Trump’s wall request is based off a 2017 plan put forward by Customs and Border Protection officials to build or replace 722 miles (1,162 km) of barrier along the border, which in total is estimated to cost about $18 billion.
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.
Following the rejection of his wall funding demand, Trump declared the border was a national emergency — a move opposed by Democrats and some Republicans — and redirected $601 million in Treasury Department forfeiture funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department drug interdiction funds and $3.6 billion from a military construction budget, for total spending of $8.1 billion for the wall.
The administration has not estimated how far the 2019 funds will go, but officials said average costs are about $25 million per mile (1.6 km).
Trump’s $8.6 billion in proposed wall funding for fiscal 2020 would include $5 billion from the Department of Homeland Security budget and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. The budget proposal will also include another $3.6 million in military construction funding to make up for any projects delayed by the wall, officials said.
The Department of Homeland Security is one of a few priority areas to get a boost in Trump’s budget plan, which seeks to slash funding to many non-defense programs.
Trump will propose an overall 5 percent increase to the Department of Homeland Security budget over fiscal 2019 appropriations, including $3.3 billion, or 22 percent more, for Customs and Border Protection, and $1.2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 16 percent hike, officials said.
The budget proposal includes a plan to hire more than 2,800 law enforcement and support personnel for the agencies, and 100 immigration judge teams, officials said.
Trump faces both political and court battles to free up the money he wants for the current fiscal year. Many lawmakers accused Trump of overstepping his constitutional powers by declaring an emergency to free up the funds. The House has already voted to revoke the emergency, and the Senate is likely to do the same this week. Trump is expected to veto the resolution.