- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

President Trump’s willingness to brave a government shutdown in order to get funding for his border wall roiled Capitol Hill, where Democrats on Wednesday called him reckless and redoubled their promise to resist anymore money for the president’s immigration crackdown plans.

With the next round of government funding due by Oct. 1, the wall fight is the biggest flash point, but by no means the only one that could result in a second shutdown this decade.

Mr. Trump raised the stakes in the fight late Tuesday at a rally in Phoenix, where he said fulfilling his campaign promise to erect a border wall was a big enough priority that it’s worth a shutdown.

“The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Mr. Trump said, joining adoring supporters in a chant of “Build that wall!”

“Let me be very clear to Democrats in Congress who oppose a border wall and stand in the way of border security: You are putting all of America’s safety at risk. You’re doing that,” the president said.

But it wasn’t clear whether Republican leadership was ready to back him.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, after a tax reform speech in Oregon, said he doesn’t want to see a halt.

“I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary, and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown — ourselves included,” Mr. Ryan said.

The Wisconsin Republican has become a major booster of the wall, and he said the issue needs to be dealt with, but he also said he hopes matters don’t get to the point where Republicans have to choose between the wall or a shutdown.

Mr. Ryan, Mr. Trump and fellow Republicans lost the first wall battle earlier this year when they had to forgo money in the 2017 spending bills.

Stung by that, and by his failure to make Mexico pay for the wall, Mr. Trump has now drawn a line as he approaches the Sept. 30 deadline for the 2018 spending bills.

Democrats have also drawn the same line — and stand on the other side, saying they won’t approve any 2018 bill that includes border wall money, even if it means a shutdown.

“Democrats will stand fast against the immoral, ineffective border wall,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

She and fellow Democratic leaders are confident Republicans would take the political blame for a shutdown, just as the GOP has done in previous shutdowns in 1995 and 2013.

In each of those cases, it was congressional Republicans versus a Democratic president. This year, however, it would be a minority of Democrats, using a Senate filibuster, to block funding. Whether that changes voters’ perception of blame, though, remains to be seen.

Money for wall-building in 2018 has already cleared the House as part of a massive security and Pentagon spending bill. The Senate has yet to take it up, and Democrats in the upper chamber stepped up their resistance Wednesday in the wake of Mr. Trump’s declarations.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Appropriations Committee vice chairman, said the money would be better spent on medical research or infrastructure.

“This is not President Trump’s first threat to shut down the United States government over his foolish, costly and useless wall, wasting tens of billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Leahy said. “We cannot afford his brand of government by threats of manufactured crisis.”

Some 354 miles of the border are protected right now by fencing, and another 300 miles have barriers that can stop vehicles but not people on foot. Mr. Trump has said between 700 and 900 miles of the 1,954-mile border will likely need a wall.

But he hasn’t submitted an overall plan, with officials saying they’ll go year by year, asking for money for walls in the most pressing areas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is already behind schedule on testing wall prototypes as the government works through protests filed by companies involved in the contract process.

A Homeland Security spokesman said Wednesday prototypes will now be built in San Diego in either October or November.

According to contracting documents, the government is hoping for a wall as high as 50 feet, which would be imposing in appearance, and which could withstand breach attempts for up to four hours. Both concrete and nonconcrete options have been sought.

The most modern versions of existing fencing are about 20 feet tall and made out of staggered bollards, which allow some visibility through to the Mexican side — a design that’s safer for agents than fencing without any visibility.

The spending bill that passed the House in July calls for $1.6 billion in wall-building money next year — 32 miles of new fencing and 28 miles of levee wall in Texas, and 14 miles of replacement fence in San Diego.

The bill also includes money for 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — each a tenth of Mr. Trump’s overall goals. The bill would also provide money to maintain 44,000 detention beds, marking a massive increase over the Obama era.

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