The White House wouldn’t comment today on a report that President Trump wants to siphon appropriations from the Defense Department, which took home about $700 billion in the omnibus spending bill, to fund his border wall project.
The omnibus allocated $1.6 billion for border fencing, repairs of existing infrastructure and security technology, but per bipartisan agreement it excluded a concrete wall. Trump sought $25 billion over 10 years to build a border wall. Despite indications that he might veto the bill, the president signed it before lawmaker left for spring break, citing the big hikes in defense spending as the reason.
According to the Washington Post, Trump subsequently pitched the idea of using the defense budget to pay for the wall to Defense Secretary James Mattis and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who “offered little reaction to the idea… but senior Capitol Hill officials later said it was an unlikely prospect.”
Trump would have to take the budget amendment request back to Congress, where it would face a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
Trump hinted at his idea in a weekend tweet: “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!”
A Pentagon official confirmed that, in order to take from the defense budget to build a wall, the president would have to go back to Congress with a request to change appropriations.
“I can’t get into the specifics of that at this point. But I can tell you that the continuation of building the wall is ongoing and we’re going to continue moving forward in that process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told media today when asked about the report.
Pressed on whether Trump’s campaign promise to get Mexico to pay for the wall was off the table, Sanders replied, “I’m not going to go beyond what the president’s already said. I think he still has plans to look at potential ways for that to happen.”