Congress is headed for an inevitable showdown in September when the time comes for a fight over the 2018 spending bill. And Republicans have already signaled that they are ready to stand behind President Trump’s promise to build a mighty wall across the southern border of the United States. On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee released a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would set aside $1.6 billion for the beginning of construction.
“Keeping Americans safe by protecting our homeland is a top priority,” said House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman John Carter. “This funding bill provides the resources to begin building a wall along our southern border, enhance our existing border security infrastructure, hire more border patrol agents, and fund detention operations.”
In comments made Tuesday, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said additional funding from Congress would be necessary if the wall was ever to move beyond it current stage of development – a stage mostly characterized by repairs to existing fences and prototype bids.
“On the DHS side, it’s clear that we’ve gotten a direction to secure the southern border,” said spokesman David Lapan, “that a wall and barrier is part of that process along with people and technology and that funding from Congress is required for us to move forward on that.”
As much as a proposal like this makes it appear like there is forward momentum on one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises, Republican insiders say it’s too soon for his supporters to get their hopes up. After the party leadership backed down from border wall funding in the last spending bill fight, many inside the party expect that a similar retreat will be seen in September. Democrats are sure to fight the wall with everything they have, leaving Republicans to decide whether or not they want to take the battle all the way to a government shutdown. Public opinion polls between now and then are certain to make all the difference.
If Republicans cave, however, there’s no guarantee that the White House will do the same. President Trump is eager to make good on his signature campaign pledge, and he’s already expressed a willingness to bring the federal government to a grinding halt if his wall is not funded. Depending on how the Obamacare repeal effort plays out between now and September, Trump could also be tired of waiting for Congress to implement his agenda. If he wants a big win, he’s got a veto pen ready to move on any spending bill that leaves the wall out of the equation. Then we’ll see a game of chicken, and it will become really clear, really fast where the American people stand on the importance of solving illegal immigration.