Trump's Wall is stymied by GOP budget deal

Sun, 25 Feb 2018 23:56:45 +0000

eowyn2

In July 2017, the House of Representatives approved President Trump’s request for $1.6 billion to start building the US-Mexico border wall. Construction was expected to in September in San Diego. Instead, what actually began in September was construction of eight wall prototypes.

But HR 1892: the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which was signed into law on February 9, 2018 by President Trump, not only contains no funding to build the wall, it is fiscally irresponsible.

On May 18, 2017, the GOP-majority (238 R, 193 D) House of Representatives had passed HR 1892, with money for the wall, by a vote of 411 – 1. On February 6, 2018, the GOP-majority (51 R, 47 D, 2 I) Senate passed the amended HR 1892 as SA 1930 — with no funding for the wall — by a vote of  71 – 28. (Congress.gov) Clearly, the problem lies in the Senate.

The lack of funding for the Wall is not the only thing wrong with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. In the words of conservative Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA), who voted no on HR 1892:

“This measure abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility and increases federal spending caps by nearly $300 billion ($2,400 per household) over the next two years. It sets up a structure that will allow Congress to bypass its own budget rules and extends a laundry list of subsidies and special-interest tax breaks. It also suspends the debt limit for a year, for obvious reasons. It has a few silver linings: it repeals IPAB (Obamacare’s rationing board), gives the Pentagon predictable funding for the next two years and provides disaster relief.

Congress approved a massive tax reduction with my support in December. It is essential for economic growth and is already having a dramatic positive effect on wages and business expansion. However, having cut taxes, Congress has a keen responsibility to restrain spending growth – a responsibility it repudiates with this measure.

Taxes and debt are both driven by spending. Indeed, they are the same thing. Once we have spent a dollar, we’ve already decided to tax it: the only question is whether we tax it now, or borrow it now and tax it in the future. But borrowing also has serious implications for the present: government borrows from the same capital pool that would otherwise be available to loan for consumer and home purchases and business expansion. A lack of fiscal restraint now undermines the economic growth we have achieved with the tax cuts.

Interest rates are already rising . . . .  A one percent increase in interest rates would add $200 billion to our ANNUAL borrowing costs, dwarfing the few cost-savings reforms we’ve managed to enact and threatening a debt spiral that would end in a sovereign debt crisis.”

Writing in The Federalist, Robert Tracinski sarcastically concludes:

“President Trump signed a deal to avert a government shutdown for another two years by basically giving the Democrats all the spending they wanted.”

Meanwhile, construction on the Wall is limited to:

(1) Replacing a section of border wall in California, the first wall contract awarded in the Trump administration outside of eight prototypes that were built last year in San Diego.

Work began on February 21, 2018. The section that is being replaced is a little more than two miles in downtown Calexico. A barrier built in the 1990s from recycled metal scraps and landing mat will be torn down for bollard-style posts that are 30 feet high, significantly taller than existing walls. (San Diego Union Tribune)

(2) The Trump administration also has issued waivers to build in San Diego and Santa Teresa, N.M.

Note: As explained by USA Today‘s VC Star, “waivers” refer to a law passed by Congress in 2005 which gave Homeland Security broad authority to waive “all legal requirements” to build border barriers, after years of ultimately unsuccessful court challenges by environmental groups against border wall construction on grounds that it violated environmental laws. George W. Bush’s administration issued five waivers, which allowed the government to build hundreds of miles of new U.S.-Mexico border fencing, thereby extending the wall to nearly one-third of the border, totaling 650 miles.

The Center for Biological Diversity had sued the Trump administration, arguing that the administration’s waiver to replace a stretch (15 miles) of wall in San Diego does not apply to replacing barriers.

Homeland Security said the San Diego waiver falls within the scope of the 2005 law and that the area is a high priority for new security measures including construction of border barriers and roads. Indeed, the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector — which is only 8% of the total U.S. border with Mexico — logged nearly 32,000 arrests last year and seized more than 4 tons of marijuana and more than a half-ton of cocaine.

Meanwhile, the AP reports (via Student News Daily) on January 19, 2018, that a U.S. official with direct knowledge told the AP that the eight wall prototypes in San Diego had withstood attempts by tactical teams to breach them, indicating if and when the Wall is constructed, it should stop border crossers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is not authorized for public release.

Military special forces based in Florida and U.S. Customs and Border Protection special units spent three weeks trying to breach and scale the eight prototypes, using jackhammers, saws, torches and other tools and climbing devices. The see-through steel barriers topped by concrete were noted to be the best overall design.

Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said after visiting the prototypes in October that he was struck most by the 30-foot heights, which are significantly higher than the existing barriers. The highly trained testers scaled 16 to 20 feet unassisted but needed help after that. Testers also expressed safety concerns about getting down from 30 feet. Only once did a tester manage to land a hook on top of the wall without help. Tubes atop some models repelled climbing devices but wouldn’t work in more mountainous areas because the terrain is too jagged.

The Trump administration had insisted wall funding be part of any immigration deal. The administration has asked for $1.6 billion this year to build or replace 74 miles of barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and San Diego, and plans to request another $1.6 billion next year.

A proposal by Customs and Border Protection calls for spending $18 billion over 10 years to extend barriers to cover nearly half the border, though it is unclear whether President Trump supports that plan. The agency proposes 316 miles of additional barrier by September 2027, bringing total coverage to 970 miles. It also seeks 407 miles of replacement or secondary fencing.

Mexico has repeatedly rejected President Trump’s demand that it pay for the wall.

See also:

~Eowyn

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