As part of his budget request to be released on Monday, President Trump will ask the Congress for an additional $8.6 billion to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and "stopping an invasion." The demand, which drew swift criticism from Democrats, is more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6% more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.
According to Reuters, the president’s proposal 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. The request is in addition to the funds that Trump is hoping to allocate through executive action after declaring a national emergency in February over the situation on the border, a move that has teed up a new battle with Congress.
In total, the White House looks to secure funding via this year’s budget, Trump’s emergency declaration and previous appropriations, for 722 miles (1,162 km) of border barrier, using an estimated cost of about $25 million per mile of wall or fencing. As Reuters notes, Trump’s wall request is based off a 2017 plan put forward by Customs and Border Protection officials to build or replace the 722 miles 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. For fiscal 2019, Trump demanded $5.7 billion in wall funds, but Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border fencing projects.
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” adding that "The whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance... We have a crisis down there."
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he’s “stopping an invasion” of the U.S., a comment that was directed at conservative commentator and "whacky nut job" Ann Coulter, whose criticism helped inspire his decision to hunker down for a record-long shutdown.
Wacky Nut Job @AnnCoulter, who still hasn’t figured out that, despite all odds and an entire Democrat Party of Far Left Radicals against me (not to mention certain Republicans who are sadly unwilling to fight), I am winning on the Border. Major sections of Wall are being built...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2019
....and renovated, with MUCH MORE to follow shortly. Tens of thousands of illegals are being apprehended (captured) at the Border and NOT allowed into our Country. With another President, millions would be pouring in. I am stopping an invasion as the Wall gets built. #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2019
The White House request represents the first marker in what’s certain to be another protracted battle between the Trump administration and congressional negotiators, particularly Democrats who hold the majority in the House; it is also just a part of the president’s 2020 budget blueprint, which he’s expected to present to lawmakers on Monday.
As Bloomberg adds, it’s the first since Democrats won control of the House in November’s mid-term elections, and it’ll will kick off months of bargaining over his spending requests and proposed funding cuts for many domestic programs.
Of course, the president's budget for the past decade has been nothing more than a charade: while under Obama budgets rarely if ever made it to the light of day, Trump faces a different reality: Democrats who oppose the wall as unnecessary and immoral, control the U.S. House of Representatives, making it unlikely the Republican president’s request will win congressional passage.
The proposal comes on the heels of a bruising battle with Congress over wall funding that resulted in a five-week partial federal government shutdown that ended in January, and could touch off a sequel just ahead of a trifecta of ominous fiscal deadlines looming this fall.
“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,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement on Sunday.
“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,” said the two top Democrats in Congress.
Regardless of whether Congress passes it - and it won't - the budget request will frame Trump's 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,” an administration official told Rueters.
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 also includes a plan to hire more than 2,800 law enforcement and support personnel for the agencies, and 100 immigration judge teams.
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.
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Separately, the budget will also unveil a 5% cut to non-discretionary domestic spending from the budget caps in fiscal 2019, according to a Bloomberg source.
Last, but not least, the budget will include economic projections for the next decade, with the administration forecasting continued expansion and, amusingly, no recession for the next ten years. The budget will project the economy growing at an average of 3 percent annually over the net decade, including 3.2% growth for 2019, a number that would be virtually unachievable if the first quarter comes in at 0.5% as the Atlanta Fed expects it will. The White House predicts the economy will grow 3.1 percent in 2020, 3 percent in 2021, and 2.8 percent in 2026.
No Wall Street bank is remotely close to such optimistic projections: a Bloomberg survey puts the consensus U.S. GDP forecast for 2019 at 2.5 percent, trailing off to 1.9 percent in 2020 as the impact of the 2017 Republican tax cuts fades.