Last week, President Trump reluctantly signed a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that allocated a paltry $1.6 billion in border security funding, which will barely begin to cover the partially transparent, possibly solar-powered Mexican border wall he repeatedly promised on the campaign trail. According to the Washington Post, Trump is now hoping the U.S. military will foot the bill for his signature campaign promise on the grounds that every moment we’re forced to live without a Southern border wall poses a “national security” risk.
Last year, Senate Democrats issued a report claiming that the proposed border wall would cost $70 billion to build and $150 million per year to maintain, counter to the Trump Homeland Security department’s $21.6 billion estimate. However, the price shouldn’t matter given how many times Trump stated that Mexico was going to pick up the tab.
At a 2015 GOP debate, then-candidate Trump told Wolf Blitzer that Mexico would, under no uncertain circumstances, be paying for the large-scale construction project though he couldn’t explain how he would make that happen.
Here’s a flashback to a 2016 campaign rally where the then-candidate led a “build that wall” chant and then asked the crowd “who’s going to pay for the wall?” After the crowd emphatically responded “Mexico,” Trump agreed, adding “100 percent.”
In 2017, President Trump reiterated that Mexico will “absolutely” fund the wall while sitting next to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at a G20 meeting.
In February, 2018, Peña Nieto canceled a trip to the White House after Trump reportedly refused to publicly abandon the claim that Mexico would bankroll the border wall.
After failing to receive the money for his pet project from Mexico and the omnibus spending bill, Trump is said to be quietly petitioning, by way of the Pentagon, for taxpayer money. Unfortunately for him, reallocating the money from the approximately $700 billion in defense spending into the border wall project would require Congressional votes that the president doesn’t have. From Washington Post:
After floating the notion to several advisers last week, he told Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that the military should pay for the wall in a meeting last Wednesday in the White House residence, according to three people familiar with the meeting. Ryan offered little reaction to the notion, these people said, but senior Capitol Hill officials later said it was an unlikely prospect.
On Sunday, President Deals tweeted “Build Wall through M!” White House sources confirmed to the Post that “M” stands for “military.”
Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2018
In January, reports surfaced that chief of staff John Kelly told a group of Congressional Democrats that the president was “uninformed” regarding his border wall campaign promise.
“Certain things are said during the campaign that are uninformed,” Kelly reportedly said during the meeting. “One thing is to campaign, another thing is to govern. It’s really hard.”
Kelly also reportedly said what we already figured out: that there wouldn’t be a wall “that Mexico will pay for.”
In a statement to the Post, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the president’s proposal to build the wall with funding from the defense budget.
“First Mexico was supposed to pay for it, then U.S. taxpayers, and now our men and women in uniform? This would be a blatant misuse of military funds and tied up in court for years,” Schumer said. “Secretary Mattis ought not bother and instead use the money to help our troops, rather than advance the president’s political fantasies.”
It sounds unlikely that the president will make any real progress on his border wall during his current term.