President Donald Trump has spent the past five days of the government shutdown holding federal workers hostage until Democrats meet his $5 billion ransom over a wall. But there’s one major problem with his latest budget showdown.
Trump’s cadre of cable news shills argue that Democrats have already funded his “wall” in previous votes. Conservative Steve Cortes claimed Democrats supported “border security” this year and last year in budget bills. The reason they’re not doing so now, according to Cortes, is that it’s Trump’s wall isn’t President Barack Obama’s idea.
While the talking point sounds like it was an idea some communications intern thought was “genius,” it puts Trump in an awkward predicament. If Democrats already funded Trump’s “border security” in previous years, why does Trump need more money now?
Closer examination reveals the Democrats supported funding of border security in the previous spending bill and it even included $1.6 billion for a border fence. At that time, Trump was demanding $25 billion for his concrete wall. But the president hasn’t even used the money he got this year.
“We’re absolutely willing to fund border security,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The American people want us to spend money in a smart way,” he continued. “Five billion dollars is a lot of money … to spend it on a 4th-century strategy rather than on stuff that actually improves border security — it’s something that we’re just not going to do …. Border security all the way. In fact, again, the president has a lot of money we gave him last year for border security and he’s not using it.”
Merkley explained that Trump is “sitting on” over $1 billion and he’s only spent six percent of it.
Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) made the same observation, suggesting the president use the money he’s got first.
There are a million reasons why $5B for a wall is a ludicrous demand to shut down the government over.
But here’s maybe the best one: the 2017/2018 budgets gave Trump billions for border upgrades. He’s spent ALMOST NONE of it. 6%.
How about spending the money you have first?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 23, 2018
Meanwhile, 59 percent of Americans don’t want to fund Trump’s wall, a CBS poll found. Trump has claimed until very recently that Americans would not foot the bill for his project.
“Mexico will pay for it, believe me,” Trump told Americans. “It’s so easy. Just rely on me.”
It begs the question: if the president truly wanted to secure the border, why isn’t he spending the money he has to do it? It could be that Trump and the GOP don’t actually want border security and instead want to stage a fight with the new Democratic Congress to see if they’ll cave.