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Senate Leaders Plan To Punt On Border Wall Funding

| by Robert Fowler

Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate appear to be in agreement on one thing: the Trump administration's request for $1.5 billion in funding in 2017 for a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is a non-starter.

The House and Senate Appropriations committees have until April 28 to negotiate a spending bill to keep the federal government running for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. With federal agencies currently kept afloat by a stopgap measure, failure to pass a spending package would result in a government shutdown.

The House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing has disclosed that lawmakers hope to have a spending package ready for approval by April 24.

In the Trump administration's budget proposals, the White House has requested that Congress include an additional $33 billion in supplemental funding be attached to the spending bill. The proposed supplement would be largely used for defense programs, with a $3 billion designated immigration enforcement, USA Today reports.

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Half of that $3 billion would go towards hiring more immigration and border patrol agents, while the other $1.5 billion would go towards kickstarting construction of President Donald Trump's proposed U.S.-Mexico wall.

The supplemental funding request has complicated negotiations, with GOP lawmakers wanting to speed up negotiations, while their Democratic colleagues have signaled total opposition to any funding for the U.S.-Mexico wall.

The Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has blasted the Trump administration's request.

"The President's proposal would abandon months of bipartisan negotiations ... This is not acceptable," Leahy said.

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On Mar. 28, the Senate Majority Leader, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, asserted that members of his party would oppose any federal appropriations for the border wall, Roll Call reports.

"Senate Democrats are prepared to fight this all the way," Schumer said during an event for the Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza. "Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on a pointless wall, we should be investing in creating jobs and fixing our infrastructure."

During the same event, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey stated that his fellow Democrats "will do everything possible to make sure U.S. taxpayer money will not go toward building a wall."

That same day, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, signaled that he and his GOP colleagues would not fight to include the Trump administration's supplemental funding proposal in the spending package.

"All of the committees, House and Senate leaderships, are working together to try to finalize the rest of the FY17 bill," Blunt said during a leadership press conference, according to The Hill. "My guess is that comes together better without the supplemental."

Blunt added that the Trump administration's requested funds, including for the border wall, will come "at a later time."

While both Republicans have indicated no desire to have a showdown over funding the border wall for FY17, the issue could crop up on Sept. 30, when Congress must pass a spending package for the 2018 fiscal year or risk another government shutdown.

The Trump administration has proposed $4.5 billion to go towards hiring immigration agents and constructing the border wall for FY18, a request that Democrats will likely oppose, according to Roll Call.

Sources: The Hill, Roll Call, USA Today / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

 

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