Senate Republicans are struggling to save funds for the construction of the old President TrumpDonald Trump Jan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump takes on Woodward, Costa against China Republicans look set to win midterms – unless they fight MOREthe much-sought-after wall on the US-Mexico border, as Democrats pursue plans to cancel nearly $ 2 billion in funding for its flagship project.
Republicans in the upper house are pushing that funds already allocated to construct the barrier be used to help continue the progress of the project, a stalled effort that would likely take more years and more money to complete .
Earlier this month, a group of Republicans – GOP Sens. Mike Braun (Ind.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) And Marco Rubio (Fla.) – have sworn in a letter not to support the annual appropriations act to fund the government if dollars were not set aside for the wall, and implored their colleagues to do the same.
But not all Republicans agree with the idea.
Senator Richard shelbyRichard Craig Shelby On the money – Biden stays with Powell despite pressure Trump seeks to overthrow Republican governor of Alabama over rally cancellation: The Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by ExxonMobil – Arbery case , Biden spends the bill on every justice sight test PLUS (Ala.), A leading Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, warned against refusing to back a bipartisan deal, a move that could jeopardize funding for other important GOP-backed priorities, including military operations and national security.
“I wouldn’t hold, if we could come to an agreement on everything else, and including defense, security, nation, everything, I wouldn’t hold it all [appropriations] charge and punish the military, ”Shelby said.
While Shelby noted that he has long supported the border wall and said funding for the project was “important,” the top Republican said “funding for the Navy, Army and intelligence from the The air force, all of this, is the top priority of the nation.
The issue signals a potentially difficult road for Republicans to complete the proposed border wall amid spending negotiations, and adds to a host of issues the leadership will face in the coming weeks as the two sides of the aisle are struggling to reach agreement on government funding.
Last month, Senate Democrats describe spending plans to cancel $ 1.9 billion of old border fence funds allocated by Congress in previous years, months after Biden called for funding for the project to end in his budget request for the Fiscal year 2022. The plan was presented as part of the credit legislation proposed by the subcommittee. on homeland security.
Biden, who had campaigned to end construction of the border wall as president, also ended defense funds used for his development. The move came after Trump previously used emergency powers to divert billions of dollars from defense for the wall after failing to secure full funding for the project from Congress.
Republicans attacked the Biden administration for ending funding for an effort they, and the previous administration, claim were effective in cracking down on illegal drug-related activities, border crossings and other crimes in areas where barriers have been raised.
But leading Democrats and critics rebuffed those arguments, calling the previous administration’s approach to border security ineffective and irresponsible. Critics pointed to the way the barrier was constructed, the maintenance costs, and the damage to the environment during construction.
Specifically, the Democrats’ plans propose to use $ 50 million of the reallocated funds for “environmental mitigation efforts resulting from the construction of a border wall,” which comes after the Trump administration launched a series of lawsuits against advocacy groups in recent years who have said the construction violates environmental law.
Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that took legal action to stop construction of the wall in 2017, said some of the damage was done in remote areas, where some Border experts say the placement of the wall is not as effective or necessary as in urban areas.
“Very remote areas of Arizona and New Mexico where there are very, very few people, the nearest town is 50 or 100 miles away. They are not easily accessible. You just don’t need a wall there, ”Hartl said, while also noting some of the permanent environmental damage from the construction, including the decimation of the mountains to. to help clear the path for the wall.
Earlier this year, Hartl’s organization scored a victory in its legal challenge against the Trump administration after a judge ruled that the government did not “carefully consider” the potential environmental impact of the wall before proceeding. build the barrier, according to Reuters.
Now Hartl has said the organization is hopeful Democrats are able to implement their plans to cancel $ 1.9 billion in funding and help repair some of the environmental damage.
Although he has said he expects funding in the future to go towards routine maintenance of the existing barrier, which Biden has previously said he will not be removing, he said the allocated funding is “the last big pot of money” yet to be. turned away from the barrier.
In their campaign to fund the wall, Republicans and supporters have sought to draw attention to the current border situation, as the nation has seen an increase in the number of migrants at a border, to strengthen their case for the system.
“I think a lot of Republicans are concerned about the sheer chaos and disaster on the southern border,” Cruz told reporters when asked about his letter recently.
Victor Manjarrez, who has served with the border patrol for more than two decades, also urged Congress to be cautious given the current border situation, saying that while technology in more remote areas can be effective in purchasing response time, barriers have proven to be effective in other more populated areas. areas.
“It’s not the only way. But that’s part of the solution. It’s a tool in the toolbox, ”said Manjarrez, director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Senator Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott Murphy Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at the WTO (D-Conn.), A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said many in his party care “about border security” but “just think this wall is insane and ineffective.”
However, Murphy, who also chairs the Senate Homeland Security Appropriation Subcommittee, said that does not mean Democrats are unwilling to negotiate on border security. “I’m ready to talk about funding for technology, funding for staff, funding for other physical infrastructure.”
In their funding proposals, Senate Democrats detailed their plans to use the canceled $ 2 billion in barrier funding to reallocate to border security technology, including IT modernization efforts, increased training capacity for CBP staff and creation of three multi-purpose facilities aimed at improving the treatment of non-citizens.
“We believe there are other better ways to secure our border,” Murphy said. “So if Republicans want to shut down government on a border wall, that’s their choice. But we were elected on the basis of our promise to be more attentive to border security, and I feel like that we must keep this promise. ”
In the 50-50 Senate, Democrats hold a slim majority in Vice President Harris’ decisive vote tally. But, to pass an appropriation bill, at least 60 votes are needed, which means that both parties will have to come to an agreement on spending.
As government funding expired for fiscal 2021, which ended on the last day of September, Congress passed a rolling resolution (CR) that allowed the government to be funded at set spending levels. for the previous year, thus avoiding a shutdown and buying more legislators during the negotiations.
The legislation allows the government to remain funded until early December. But Congress is expected to pass another CR soon after returning from the Thanksgiving vacation next week, as the two sides have failed to come to an agreement on ongoing spending amid ongoing disagreements.
Murphy said he spoke to the senator. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore Capito White House seeks to curb gas prices ahead of busy travel season Biparty Senate success points to more compromise Biden administration takes step towards overturning Trump water regulations MORE (RW.Va.), senior Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, on funding for the border wall. But Capito said she and the senator were “just on totally opposite ends” on the issue.
“At some point we will have to sit down and try to compromise the problem or move towards an ongoing resolution, which continues to fund the wall,” she said.