Congressional Republicans appear to be preparing to withdraw funding for President Donald Trump's border wall from the spending bill that must be passed by Congress before April 28 to avert a government shutdown.
The White House requested $1.4 billion for the first stage of construction at the end of March but may be forced to wait a little longer, according to The Hill.
"The big chunk of money for the wall, really, is next fiscal year's appropriations, because they literally can't start construction even this quickly," House Speaker Paul Ryan said, The Hill reported.
This suggests that the debate over funding the project, which was one of Trump's most well-known election promises, will be delayed until September when Congress considers spending for the 2018 fiscal year.
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Democrats have declared their opposition to the wall, but concerns are also growing among Republicans about the desirability of going ahead with the massive undertaking.
"We recognize the need for robust border security and infrastructure to ensure public safety and increase cross border commerce,” wrote Republican Reps. Will Hurd and Martha McSally, who represent border communities in Texas and Arizona, in a letter to the Trump administration. "We also have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars."
Democrats have criticized the cost.
"It's anything between $26 billion and $40 billion to build it, you can't drive on it, you can't use it for anything, it doesn't do anything to drive economic growth and jobs in America beyond the building of a wall itself, and it probably wouldn't be built using union jobs to begin with," Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York said.
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Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona spoke about the potential for the project to damage bilateral relations between the United States and Mexico.
"There is a lot of anti-American sentiment in Mexico. If the election were tomorrow in Mexico, you'd probably have a left-wing, anti-American president in Mexico. That can't be good for America," McCain said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray noted that Mexico views the building of the wall as an "unfriendly gesture" by Washington, but added that it was "not part of a bilateral discussion and it shouldn't be."
In spite of the possible hold-up of funds for the wall, an estimated 400 contractors have begun submitting their design proposals for the project.
The guidelines published by the Trump administration called for the wall to be able to withstand attacks from "sledgehammer, car jack, pick axe, chisel, battery operated impact tools … propane or butane or other similar hand-held tools" for up to four hours, according to The Guardian. A second request indicated that designs could include "a see-through component," prompting speculation that the wall may turn out to be a fence.
One of the proposals, from Clayton Industries, suggests digging a 100-foot trench on the Mexican border and filling it with nuclear waste.