Congressional Republican leaders disclosed Thursday that it would cost $12 billion to $15 billion to make good on President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to build a “big, beautiful” security wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But they didn’t say how they will pay for it.
Meeting with reporters in Philadelphia where Republican lawmakers are holding a policy retreat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said they would await a request from the Trump administration for a supplemental spending request to build a barrier that Trump insists is critical to U.S. security but that critics say is a colossal waste of precious federal resources.
As the GOP-controlled Congress begins to face up to a pile of costly Trump campaign pledges – from deep tax cuts and new highways and bridges to constructing a wall along the southern border – Ryan and McConnell are facing mounting questions about how they would achieve all of that without driving up the national debt.
Pressed by one reporter to assure the Republicans weren’t heading for a new debt crisis with all the spending on their agenda, Ryan replied, “You know us well. We are fiscal conservatives. What that means is, we believe government should not live beyond its means,” Ryan said.
“We believe that hard-working taxpayers in this country deserve a break in this country. And that means Washington takes less money from them, and we also spend less here. That means we have to get our fiscal house in order to prevent a debt crisis in the future.” Ryan added that the Republicans could do much in “moving us in a great direction” on the fiscal front this year by repealing and replacing Obamacare and spurring the creation of new jobs.
But neither McConnell nor Ryan would say whether Congress would make offsetting cuts in other areas of the budget to placate Trump’s demand for swift action on the wall, a costly architectural feat that could take years to complete to tighten control along the border and halt the flow of illegal immigrants into this country.
“We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States,” Trump told a group of Department of Homeland Security employees in announcing an executive order to build the wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border and winding path of the Rio Grande. “Beginning today, the United States gets control of its borders.”
Trump insisted throughout the presidential campaign and in the early days of his new administration that Mexico would ultimately pick up the tab for building the wall despite President Enrique Pena Nieto insistence that his government would never pay for the wall. More recently, he said that Congress would have to use taxpayer funds to cover the initial cost of the project, but that Mexico would ultimately pay back the U.S.
Trump said in an interview with ABC News last night that construction would begin “as soon as we can physically do it – I would say in months.” He stressed, “We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” adding, “I’m just telling you there will be a payment.”
The Mexican president who was roundly criticized at home for meeting with Trump in Mexico City in late August during the campaign was scheduled to confer with Trump at the White House next week for bilateral talks on trade and the wall. But Nieto canceled the meeting
after reaffirming on Wednesday that his country “will not pay for any wall.” As expected, Trump then took to Twitter:
of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017