Donald Trump is determined to build his border wall, even if he has to shut down the government to do it.
Whether Trump will shutter the federal government over funds for the border wall apparently depends entirely on what day of the week it is and who he is talking to.
Trump told The Daily Caller two days ago, “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns,” adding that “I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now.”
But yesterday, the president told Fox News that if it were up to him, he’d “shut down the government over border security.” Trump added, “I guess when you get right down to it, it is up to me, but I don’t want to do anything to hurt us or potentially hurt us.”
Trump suggested that he won’t shut down the government until after midterms, meaning he would probably accept a continuing resolution to fund the government that would last a few weeks.
The prospect of additional funding for Trump’s border wall has created a rift on Capitol Hill between GOP leadership, who fear that a shutdown weeks before the midterms would damage Republican candidates, and conservatives who have leveraged the threat of shutdowns in the past to win policy concessions.
Trump said he had received commitments from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to increase funding for the wall in addition to what appropriators have already agreed to provide.
“We’ll do it right after the election where hopefully, frankly, it will be easy because we have more Republicans, not less,” he said.
Actually, it sounds as if Trump will wait until January to deal with the wall issue. The problem, of course, is that there’s a 50-50 chance that there will be a lot fewer Republicans at that time — not more. If that’s the case, then Trump will have to find a way to get funds for the wall before the new Congress is sworn in.
Another option being explored by the president is to have the military build the wall. Defense Secretary James Mattis is considering a request from the Department of Homeland Security to have the military build parts of the wall.
But that option has many difficulties.
“We’re going to have our wall, and we’re going to get it very strongly. The military’s going to be building some of it,” Trump said at the time.
The request includes constructing a 30-foot barrier along nearly 32 miles of Arizona’s Air Force’s Barry M. Goldwater bombing range near Yuma. The section, which now has pedestrian fencing, would also feature a patrol road and access gates, Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
But the estimated $450 million cost might still pose a tough challenge.
Mattis could take the funding from the Pentagon’s existing budget for military construction. Congress would need to approve a reprogramming request for the money and it could be a tough sell to lawmakers who face seeing other construction projects being cut at bases in their districts and states.
Another option would be requesting the money through Congress’ armed services and appropriations committees. A $450 million project would need its own line item in the 2020 defense budget, but that would likely draw a political fight.
Trump’s best bet is still to fund the project through the DHS. But $450 million is a drop in the bucket for what will be needed to construct a wall along the entire 2000-mile southern border — especially now that the silly notion that Mexico would pay for it has been dropped.
Nobody knows if a shutdown would hurt the GOP, the Democrats, or anybody at all. But politicians are cautious critters and if there’s a chance that a shutdown could damage the Republicans on Election Day, it’s likely that Trump will reluctantly pass on the opportunity and wait until after the midterms are over.