The top Republican in the Senate said Thursday that Mexico won’t end up paying for President Trump’s border wall.
“Uh, no,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said flatly when asked at a briefing hosted by Politico.
He said a wall across the entire 1,950-mile border may not be needed, though he trusts Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to get it right.
Congress is poised to begin debating the first installment of money for the wall. While Mr. Trump repeatedly said during the presidential campaign that Mexico would foot the bill, he now says American taxpayers will have to fund it at first and then he will find ways to recuperate the costs from Mexico.
Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said last week that estimates run from $8 million to $25 million a mile, depending on the terrain and type of wall. But he did indicate that their goal is still a barrier of some sort along the entire border.
“I’ve got, I don’t know, six or seven different papers on my desk. I’ve got one that goes, starts at $8 million per mile. It goes up to about $25 million per mile. So again, it just depends on, when you’re talking about across 2,000 miles or so, what you decide to build in what areas,” he said in an interview on the “Hugh Hewitt Show.”
Fencing recently installed in Naco, Arizona, cost $6 million per mile. The price tag is also much higher than the last major round of construction following the 2006 Secure Fence Act.
Federal investigators said the cost us cut in half by using government agencies — in particular, the National Guard — rather than private contractors.
After reports of high costs leaked this year, Mr. Trump vowed that he would get involved and use his vaunted negotiating skills to lower the price.
Mr. McConnell made the comments on the wall’s cost as illegal immigration across the southwest border appears to have dropped since Mr. Trump took office.
In February, the fewest number of people were caught crossing the border illegally of any month in the past five years. U.S. Border Patrol officials say the number of captures is a good indication of the overall flow.
The drop in the flow amounted to about 40 percent compared with January, and it was consistent across all demographics, suggesting that Mr. Trump’s get-tough policies have already made an impact.
News networks began to question whether, given the numbers, a wall was needed along the border.
Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democrat, said Thursday that she had introduced a bill that would prevent taxpayers from having to foot the bill if a wall is built.
“If Republicans capitulate to President Trump, a wall will indeed be built. But if this ludicrous proposal does come to fruition, I will do everything in my power as a member of Congress to protect my constituents from the financial fallout. I call on both Democrats and Republicans to join me in my effort by supporting this common-sense legislation,” she said.