House to include border wall money in spending bill, teeing up shutdown fight

WASHINGTON –– House appropriators are including President Donald Trump’s full request to fund a physical border wall in their proposed 2018 budget — potentially setting up a shutdown fight this fall.

The House appropriations committee released its homeland security bill on Tuesday and it includes the full $1.6 billion requested by the Office of Management and Budget to begin construction on a southern border wall.

The bill also funds 500 new Border Patrol agents and more technology for securing the border, as well as money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 1,600 additional staff and increase detention capacity.

While House Republicans have enough votes to pass such a bill even with some defections, the move would likely face trouble in the Senate, where Republicans need eight Democrats to join them to advance any funding bill.

Democrats have already signaled they would oppose any funding bill that includes money for the wall, warning Republican leadership late last month that they would oppose what they called “poison pill riders.”

“We are once again concerned with the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 request for a very expensive, ineffective new wall along the southern border with Mexico and new funding for the Department of Homeland Security to hire a ‘deportation force’ and increase detention beds,” wrote Senate Democratic leaders to their GOP counterparts.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi mocked the proposal in a statement Tuesday, saying, “a wall of bipartisan opposition is the only thing House Republicans are trying to build here.”

House Republican leadership wouldn’t comment on possibly risking a shutdown, but key appropriators called the money a “top priority.”

“Keeping Americans safe by protecting our homeland is a top priority,” said Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman John Carter. “This funding bill provides the resources to begin building a wall along our southern border, enhance our existing border security infrastructure, hire more border patrol agents, and fund detention operations.”

The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of House Republican’ right flank, earlier this week encouraged a shutdown fight over the wall money.

“My conversations with the President have led me to believe that there is nothing less than a full and total commitment on his part to only sign into law a funding bill that actually allows for us to start construction of a border wall on our southern border,” Meadows told Breitbart in an interview Monday. “Without a doubt there is enough conservative members who will not support any funding mechanism that does not include border wall funding.”

At a briefing with reporters Monday, the Department of Homeland Security would not take a position on the willingness of the agency to risk a shutdown over the wall, but spokesman David Lapan said funding was “important.”

“On the DHS side, it’s very clear that we’ve gotten a direction to secure the southern border, that a wall and barrier is part of that process — along with people and technology — and that funding from Congress is required for us to move forward with that, so it is important for us to get the money that’s included in the budget,” Lapan said.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that Mexico would pay for a wall, though Mexico has rejected that idea and the White House has not explained how it would secure Mexican funding. Earlier Tuesday, Lapan said that Kelly did not raise the prospect of Mexico paying for the wall when he was in Mexico last week meeting with officials.

Also Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan met with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso to “reaffirm the important relationship” between the two countries, he said in a release from his office.

DHS says the roughly $1.6 billion requested for a wall will cover 74 miles of construction: 32 miles of wall and 28 miles of levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley, and 14 miles of replacement for secondary fencing in San Diego.

The 2017 fiscal year funding deal did include money for increased border security technology, personnel and replacement fencing, but lawmakers rushing to avoid a government shutdown on Trump’s 100th day in office did not allocate any money for new wall construction.

Government funding runs out September 30.