New Year, New Congress
It’s New Years Eve 2018 and the government is in its tenth day of a partial shutdown over border security funding.
President Trump is requesting $5 billion in order to build sections of the wall, or fencing depending on who you ask, increased technology and border patrol agents. The Democrats are perfectly willing to give up $1.3 billion for fencing and other border security provisions, but no funding for a wall. Should the president hold true to his word the absence of that noun would render any spending bill to be proposed by Congress this week to be denied upon receipt. The question is if the president is willing to take the risk of denying the Democrats proposal. With that answer comes the answer to how much he is willing to give up in order to fund the government and have it reopen as well.
But why now? Why has it taken two years for the president and Republicans in Congress to finally take a stand on border security and wall funding? After all, building the wall was a staple of the president’s campaign and was a key issue that contributed to him winning the election. The reason is simple – the Republicans and the president have run out of time.
In just two short days the 116th Congress will convene for the first time on January 3rd, 2019 thus propelling President Trump’s administration into a two year “lame duck” session until 2020. Democratic leaders have already announced a proposal that they are pushing to vote on this coming Thursday to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year save Homeland Security. They will only be funded through February 8th which will include the aforementioned $1.3 billion for fencing but no funding for a wall. The goal of this proposal is to see just how far President Trump is willing to go in his fight for funding a wall.
The irony here is that the Democrats are now opposing what they have already voted for several times in the past. There are multiple videos and news stories from 2006 where Democrats supported the same type of border security measures being discussed today. In fact 23 other Democrats along with then Senator Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. In re-reading the Secure Fence Act of 2006 it seems to echo exactly what President Trump and the Republicans are seeking today. More fencing along the Southern border (I.e. a wall or barrier), more vehicle barriers, checkpoints, lighting, advanced technology like cameras, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles to reinforce our infrastructure at the border. You can hear Kellyanne Conway state exactly that during a recent CNN interview.
Historically speaking funding border security is not a partisan issue. It never has been. $60 million was allocated according to the DHS in 2009 in the form of grants to fund Operation Stonegarden for border States. That same year there was in excess of $106 million more set aside for Southwest border security measures, again per the DHS website. Time and again both Democrats and Republicans have voted for funding for border security. To take a broader approach if you consider an estimate of $4.4 trillion Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget the $5 billion President Trump is asking for border security is a fraction of 1% of the overall budget. It’s essentially nothing in the grand scheme of things.
So why are the Democrats opposed now? In a word – politics. They simply cannot stomach giving the president a win when it comes to one of his key campaign promises. Even if they claim victory in that whatever is built it is not called a wall in any bill or budget package they vote in favor of. At the end of the day, they can say President Trump didn’t get his wall and that, it seems, is more important than anything else – even securing our country.
Semantics are the name of the game in Washington D.C. to the detriment and frustration of the American people. With a Democrat controlled House coming into session it can be expect that we will see much more of the same over the next two years. That is if they don’t spend all their time with investigations and repeated attempts to impeach the president. Either way there seems to be little hope for any political wins on the agenda of President Trump in the near future. That is certain.