By ALAN FRAM, WASHINGTON (AP) — A House spending bill would provide $5 billion next year for building President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, a major boost that suggests a raucous pre-election budget battle may lay ahead.
Democrats have long opposed financing Trump’s wall but lack the votes by themselves to block House approval of that amount. But they have the strength to derail legislation in the closely divided Senate. Without naming a figure, Trump said in April that he would “have no choice” but to force a government shutdown this fall if he doesn’t get the border security money he wants.
The $5 billion is well above the $1.6 billion in the Senate version of the bill, which would finance the Homeland Security Department. The higher amount matches what Trump has privately sought in conversations with Republican lawmakers, according to a GOP congressional aide. The aide wasn’t authorized to speak on the record about private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Keeping Americans safe by protecting our homeland is a top priority,” Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in a written statement.
The panel released details of its bill the same day the House was set to debate a symbolic measure lauding Immigration and Customs Enforcement and belittling proposals to abolish it.
The GOP-written legislation is aimed at embarrassing and dividing Democrats, after a group of liberals introduced a bill last week erasing that federal agency. Liberals consider it an instrument of carrying out Trump’s severe immigration policies, including his now-abandoned separation of migrant children from their parents. But other Democrats think that bill went too far and risked alienating moderate voters.
The government’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, which in effect creates a deadline for the White House and Congress to try reaching budget deals. They almost never do. Without at least a temporary truce, federal agencies would shut down that day — which would create a tremendous political risk for the GOP, which controls government, barely a month before elections for control of Congress.
Trump made the wall a keystone of his successful 2016 election campaign, but insisted that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has always refused to do so.
All but $126 million of the $5 billion would be for constructing more than 200 miles of wall, with the remainder for border technology. Beyond the $5 billion, the bill provides added money for expenditures including new canine teams, border patrol agents, new aircraft and sensors.