President Donald Trump told Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday if they do not support funding for a border wall with Mexico, he is willing to task the military to do it.
Trump’s declaration came during a heated debate with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the White House over funding the wall, as the prospect of a partial shutdown looms on Dec. 21.
The president made it clear he wants $5 billion for border wall construction, while Schumer countered with the $1.6 billion the Senate has approved for border security. Shortly after taking office, Trump sought $25 billion, but told reporters the cost of building a wall in strategic places was less than he expected.
“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government,” Trump said. “I will take the mantle of shutting down the government. I’m going to shut it down for border security.”
Trump: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it” pic.twitter.com/o4xmLRMOTH
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) December 11, 2018
The president noted that his administration has done a lot of work on border security including improving existing walls and fencing.
“A lot of wall is renovated,” Trump said. “We have walls that were in very bad condition that are now in A1 tip-top shape. And, frankly, some wall has been reinforced by our military. Our military has done a fantastic job. So the wall will get built, but we may not — we may not have an agreement today. We probably won’t.”
He said illegal traffic dropped 92 percent in the San Diego sector; 95 percent in El Paso; 92 percent and 95 percent in Tucson and Yuma, Arizona, respectively.
Pelosi questioned the accuracy of Trump’s numbers, but they are consistent with statistics given by the Border Patrol to NPR in 2006, following the initial erection of double and triple fencing in the San Diego area.
Border Patrol agent Jim Henry told the news outlet apprehensions in his sector dropped 95 percent, from 100,000 to 5,000 per year.
Schumer argued if the president has been able to get so much good work done at the border over the past year, he should be satisfied to keep that level of funding ($1.3 billion) in place.
“Chuck, we can build a much bigger section with more money,” Trump responded.
The president contended building the wall is a matter of national security.
“People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time,” Trump said. “Our border agents, all of our law enforcement has been incredible what they’ve done. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are people that were looking to do harm.”
Pelosi claimed that Trump does not have the votes in the GOP controlled-House to get the $5 billion wall funding he wants.
The president countered that he does, but needs at least 10 Democratic senators to agree to it, so the proposal can overcome a likely filibuster in the closely divided Senate.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has already indicated he would vote against funding the wall, which means Trump would need 10 Democratic senators to join with their GOP colleagues for the funding legislation to move forward.
In a Dec. 11 tweet, Trump proclaimed the wall will get built, one way or another.
“People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!” he wrote.
….People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2018
The chief executive promised that unless an agreement can be reached, he will shut down the government.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told Schumer and Pelosi, adding, “because the people of this country don’t want criminals, people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country.”
Trump clearly sees the lame duck session, with the GOP still in charge of both chambers, as his best opportunity to get the wall funded.
Building a border wall was one of Trump’s most prominent promises during the 2016 presidential race.
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