Trump to demand $8.6 billion in new wall funding, setting up fresh battle with Congress
By DAMIAN PALETTA | The Washington Post | Published: March 10, 2019
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday will request at least another $8.6 billion in funding to build more sections of a wall along the Mexico border, setting up a fresh battle with Congress less than one month after Trump declared a national emergency.
In Trump’s annual budget request to Congress, he will request $5 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security to continue building sections of a wall along the Mexico border, said three people briefed on the request. He will request another $3.6 billion for the Department of Defense’s military construction budget to erect more sections of a wall.
The people describing the request spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget had not been made public yet, but a top White House official acknowledged the request in an interview on Fox News Sunday. Reuters first reported the $8.6 billion figure.
Asked whether Trump’s new border funding request signals that a new budget fight is coming, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow responded, “I suppose there will be. I would just say that the whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance. We have a crisis down there. I think the president has made that case very effectively.”
The request will come as part of a broader proposal that would call for major spending cuts across a range of domestic government programs while seeking a large increase for the Pentagon.
Trump led a government shutdown in December that lasted for 35 days because Congress would not appropriate $5.7 billion to build sections of the wall. Eventually, Trump relented and reopened the government. Congress a few weeks later agreed to fund $1.375 billion to finance 55 miles of barrier on the border in Texas.
To try to extract more funds, Trump last month declared a “national emergency” and said he would redirect more than $6.7 billion from other programs to build even more sections of the wall. The national emergency declaration unsettled many lawmakers, including some of his key allies in the Senate. A number of Senate Republicans have said they oppose Trump’s unilateral move to move money without congressional approval and they are expected to pass a disapproval vote in the coming days.
Even with the stiff congressional opposition, Trump’s new budget request shows that he plans to continue fighting on the issue in the coming months. Congress and the White House must agree on a new budget deal by the end of September. They also must pass a measure to raise the debt ceiling in September or October or they will risk having the government falling behind on its obligations, something that could rattle the economy and financial markets.
By signaling on Monday that he wants billions of dollars in additional border wall funding to be part of any deal, Trump is sending an early signal to lawmakers of what his demands will be.
One senior administration official said the $8.6 billion in additional funding, combined with the money Trump is attempting to redirect through a national emergency declaration, would allow the White House to complete at least 722 miles of new barriers — a figure that long has been a White House goal.
White House officials say there are already 122 miles of barriers that have been completed or are currently under construction. Some of those barriers are replacing fences that previously had existed, and Democrats have said routinely Trump erroneously claims credit for building walls that either don’t exist or are far from being completed.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to build a wall along the Mexico border. He also said that Mexico would pay for it, though the Mexican government repeatedly has refused to finance the project.
Since becoming president, Trump has changed his description of how the wall would be financed, at first saying Mexico eventually would pay the U.S. government back, and later scrapping any mention of Mexico sending money for the project to the U.S. Instead, he has insisted the money come from U.S. taxpayers, arguing that criminals, terrorists, and drugs are flooding into the U.S. across the southern border.
His top advisers have not provided information to back up many of those assertions, but Kudlow said Sunday that Trump planned to keep fighting.
“He’s going to stay with his wall, and he’s going to stay with the border security theme,” Kudlow said on Fox News Sunday. “I think it’s essential.”
The Washington Post’s Tony Romm contributed to this report.