WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump hasn’t been able to make Mexicans pay for his long-promised wall along the southern border, and now it appears that Americans won’t be paying for it, either.
Absent from the $1.3 trillion spending plan for the budget year that runs through Sept. 30 is any money for the construction of a border wall. At one point, Trump and his advisers had been pushing for $25 billion for the project.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office Wednesday evening touted $1.6 billion in the bill that would pay for “physical barriers and infrastructure, and funding for related technology and personnel” along 95 miles. And Trump himself tweeted later that night: “Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming.”
But Democrats pointed out that only $641 million of that money is designated for 33 miles of “new fencing or levees” ― specifically not a concrete wall. The rest of the money is for repairing or replacing existing fencing or border security technology.
The White House press office did not respond to a HuffPost query regarding the lack of wall money in the omnibus bill. Earlier Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement generally praising the spending plan that had still not been finalized.
Trump promised from the day he began his campaign in June 2015 that he would build a “great wall” to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico.
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” Trump boasted during his Trump Tower announcement speech. “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
Over the next 17 months, he promised hundreds of times that he would build the wall quickly, and at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. Trump explained that his wall would be at least 30 feet tall and extend deep underground to prevent tunneling. At a December 2015 visit to Manassas, Virginia, Trump even went into construction details.
“It’s going to be made of hardened concrete, and it’s going to be made out of rebar. That’s steel,” Trump said in response to a boy’s question. “And we’re going to set (the rebar) in nice, heavy foundations.”
But having Mexico pay for a wall that that country does not even support was never a realistic possibility. A planned meeting between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was recently canceled because Peña Nieto would not back away from his refusal to pay.
Getting Congress to appropriate as much as $25 billion of American taxpayer money for Trump’s project has also proved difficult. Democrats hold enough votes to block a spending bill, and they have refused to go along with Trump’s wall unless he agrees to a bill that protects undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. They have been allowed to work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by former President Barack Obama. Trump canceled DACA last year, a decision that is now tied up in the courts.
Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, predicted during a February White House briefing that the border wall money was essentially contingent on Trump and Congress agreeing on a DACA fix. Without such a deal, he said, “Congress will never give us the money.”