President Donald Trump is making calls anew for a concrete border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, this time topped with rows of solar panels.
Despite failing in his first try to get any money for the project from Congress, the president promised during a recent meeting with House and Senate leaders to start building the wall as a means to stop illegal immigration.
"The wall will be a great help, and it will happen, believe me,” Trump said before meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and other Republicans.
But Democrats said Congress is unlikely to give Trump taxpayer money for the wall, which he originally said would be paid for by Mexico. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said many Republicans remain quietly opposed to the project, which could require the taking of private property and cost billions of federal dollars.
Trump was pushing for a $1.5 billion down payment for the wall in the recently enacted government spending package, but the deal negotiated by McConnell and other members of both parties in April included none of the monies. Leahy said negotiators found out how to quickly get the White House to back off from their demands – and threats to veto the measure if the money wasn’t included.
"If you want to have a wall then let’s vote up or down,” Leahy recounted saying during a final closed-door bargaining session with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), their counterparts from the House Appropriations Committee, and White House representatives. "The majority of Republicans know what a dumb idea that wall is and they weren’t going to vote for it and the same with the Appropriations Committee, they weren’t going to vote for it, either.”
"It’s one thing to talk about it — it’s great sloganeering — but to actually have to vote on it and have your name on it is another,” Leahy told Bloomberg BNA. "They don’t want to vote for that stuff that Mr. Trump might tweet in the middle of the night about. They know if they’re actually going to vote for some of these not-so-very-bright ideas they’re in trouble.”
Faced with the prospect of the wall being put to a public vote, the White House dropped the matter and Trump signed the package into law a few days later.
"It came out in an hour,” Leahy said.
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