On the campaign trail, Donald Trump used “we’re going to build a wall” as his signature campaign line. He even admitted to using the phrase as a means to rev up crowds he felt were tuning him out. Now, it appears the White House is showing a lot more flexibility on Trump’s most central campaign pledge, after threatening to shut down the government if a mandatory funding bill didn’t include immediate funding for his promised wall.
“Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL,” the president tweeted Tuesday morning. “It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.”
Trump’s tweet came after his Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, testified before Congress that the administration was not going to build a wall across the entire Mexico-USA border.
“It’s unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea,” Kelly said.
Republicans in the House and Senate passed a temporary funding bill on Friday that did not include the White House’s previous demand for funds to begin immediate construction on the wall.
While a border wall isn’t likely to be that expensive compared to all the things the federal government spends money on, the idea has many critics who argue that it would not actually eliminate illegal immigration. A large-scale fence also would certainly face strong opposition from many ranchers and other property owners, many of whom own adjacent land in Mexico.
The administration has vowed it will come back for border wall funding later in the year but there’s a real risk that they may not have the votes for it.
“Republicans in Congress don’t want the wall. And that is the most under-reported aspect of this whole skirmish,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told Politico. “Republicans in the leadership of both chambers actually hate that idea. They know it’s dumb.”
More than a few Republican members oppose a border wall, according to Chuck Schumer, the New Yorker who leads the Democratic opposition in the Senate.
“It certainly won’t get 60 votes. It wouldn’t get 50,” Schumer said to Politico.
Arizona Republican Martha McSally, chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee on borders, recently said walls do little to repel criminals from entering the U.S. “They will go over, through or under physical barriers, sometimes pretty quickly,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
Border state Republicans in the Senate, like Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain, and Texas’ John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, have either declined to support Trump’s plan for a wall or have publicly complained.