A Republican-Democrat House and Senate committee is planning to offer President Trump a border security package that could include less than a quarter of the $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall he originally requested.
Capitol Hill sources tell the media that a conference committee of Republicans and Democrats is preparing to unveil a border security funding plan that gives only about $1.3 to $2 billion to Trump for construction of his proposed wall on the southern border to stop wage-crushing illegal immigration.
The New York Times reports:
On Capitol Hill, House and Senate conferees were nearing an agreement that could offer the president between $1.3 billion and around $2 billionin funding for border security, a range, still subject to change, that could include some physical barriers and result in a deal as early as Monday. Talk of a wall has given way to “bollard fencing” and strategic placements. [Emphasis added]
This $1.3 to $2 billion would be the total spending for border security, meaning the funding for the proposed border wall would be a figure potentially less than $1.3 billion.
Despite previously committing that he would not accept anything less than $5 billion in funding for a border wall in a border security package, Trump is now telling lawmakers and aides that he is open to accepting just $2 billion for the wall, sources told the New York Times:
Mr. Trump has told allies he would grudgingly accept a figure of around $2 billion, but House Democrats remain publicly opposed to spending that much on physical barriers. It is still not clear how much of the final allocation would go for new fencing, according to three people briefed on the negotiations. [Emphasis added]
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, told senators at a party lunch and in private conversations over the past few days that Mr. Trump had told him, “I can live with $2 billion,” according to a Senate aide who witnessed one of the exchanges. [Emphasis added]
The conference committee was formed after Trump reopened the federal government following a shutdown without securing any funding for the border wall. Members of the committee include:
Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, Texas Rep. Kay Granger, Tennesee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, and Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, Montana Sen. Jon Tester, New York Rep. Nita Lowey, California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, North Carolina Rep. David Price, California Rep. Barbara Lee, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, and California Rep. Pete Aguilar.
The committee was formed to work on a funding package for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a deadline of February 15, a funding route that experts have said the president never had to take.
Defense Department officials have reiterated that Trump does not need approval from Congress and, also, does not have to declare a national emergency to begin construction of the border wall. Instead, the president could have invoked 10 United States Code § 284, which authorizes the U.S. military to build barriers at the southern border, a Pentagon official has testified to Congress.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) has urged Trump to invoke these executive powers to immediately begin building the border wall.
“I think what [Trump] needs to do now is Title 10 gives him authority to you know where there’s an active drug corridor … that the Department of Defense can access money and build a fence, I think he needs to do that … I think that needs to happen,” Biggs said last month.
Total construction of the proposed southern border wall would cost about $25 billion, far from the funding the GOP-Democrat committee is expected to offer. At the current rate, securing about $1.3 to $2 billion for the border wall would fund less than 205 miles of wall construction on the roughly 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border.
While Congress and Trump haggle dally over border wall funding, mass illegal immigration has continued at the southern border. Border apprehension data from December 2018 reveal that the number of adults traveling to the southern border with children has skyrocketed by 280 percent compared to the same time last year.
Illegal immigration at the border, for December 2018, has increased 81 percent compared to this same month the year before. Additionally, between January 25 and February 15 — the period that Trump has given Congress to work on a border security package — there is likely to be anywhere between 30,000 to 44,000 illegal border crossings based on previous DHS totals. This is about 1,300 to 2,000 illegal crossings a day at the southern border.