Democratic lawmakers have asserted that legislation to fund President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is unlikely to pass in the Senate, citing their likely unanimous opposition to such a bill and potential defections from Republican colleagues due to Mexico’s firm refusal to reimburse the project’s cost.
On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order calling for construction of his signature campaign promise: a concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The House speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has stated that Congress will fund the wall’s construction with the expectation that Mexico will pay for it eventually.
“First off, we’re going to pay for it and front the money,” Ryan told MSNBC, adding: “There are a lot of different ways of getting Mexico to contribute to doing this.”
GOP leaders have proposed a funding package that would fund the wall to the tune of $15 billion, although independent experts have estimated that the project could require as much as $25 billion to complete.
On Jan. 26, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Congress may pass legislation to impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports into the U.S.
“By doing … that we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone,” Spicer said, according to Fox News. “That’s really going to provide the funding.”
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus later clarified that the 20 percent tariff was only being considered.
Mexican officials have repeatedly stated that their country will not contribute funding for the border wall. Following Trump’s executive order, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a scheduled visit in the U.S.
Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray has asserted that the proposed 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods would only mean that funding for the wall would come out of American consumers’ wallets, the BBC reports.
“A tax on Mexican imports to the United States is not a way to make Mexico pay for the wall, but to a way make the North American consumer pay for it through more expensive avocados, washing machines, televisions,” Videgaray said.
On Jan. 27, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York issued a statement promising to oppose such a tariff.
“Instead of having Mexico pay for the Wall, President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Washington Republicans would have the American middle-class pay for the wall,” Schumer said, according to CNN. “The costs of everything from groceries, to cars, to office supplies would go up by 20 percent, making it harder for middle-class families to pay for things they need every day.”
Sources from the Democratic caucus have asserted that congressional funding for the wall will fall apart amid their unified opposition and Republicans’ potential concerns about a spending bill that does not include cuts to offset the costs. While Republicans have a majority in both congressional chambers, they would need Democratic support to reach the 60 votes necessary to break any potential filibuster on a funding bill.
On Jan. 27, both Trump and Pena Nieto spoke over the phone for roughly an hour. Trump later described the discussion as productive.
“We had a very good call,” Trump said during a joint news conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, The Washington Post reports. “I have been very strong on Mexico. I have great respect for Mexico … Mexico has out-negotiated us and beat us to a pulp. They’ve made us look foolish.”
Mexican officials issued a statement echoing Trump’s characterization of the phone call as positive, but added: “The presidents also agreed for now not to talk publicly about this controversial issue.”
Sources: BBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, The Washington Post / Photo Credit: Senate Democrats/Flickr