01.23.2019 0

Senate funding bill that includes $5.7 billion for the wall extends 2018 prohibition barring actually using the funds to build the wall

By Robert Romano

If all you read was headlines, you might get the impression that the omnibus spending bill offered by the Senate to end the partial government shutdown includes full $5.7 billion funding for the wall. But you’d be wrong.

“Senate GOP unveils omnibus bill to fund wall, reopen government,” reads one headline from Roll Call.

“Senate panel releases text of bill to reopen government, includes wall money,” declares Fox News.

“McConnell says vote expected Thursday on legislation to fund Trump’s border wall and reopen government,” CNN blares.

There’s just one problem. While the Senate legislation does in fact offer $5.7 billion for physical barriers, it leaves in place a 2018 prohibition on using those funds to build the prototype walls the President has been touting, including the steel barrier.

Included in the language under Title II of the omnibus bill is a reference to the prohibition: “Provided, That the conditions set forth in subsections (b) and (c) of section 230 of division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115–11 141) shall apply during fiscal year 2019…”

Meaning, you have to go back to the 2018 omnibus bill to see what the conditions were in Title II, Section 230(b), as noted by Conservative Partnership Institute Policy Director Rachel Bovard, which states: “The amounts designated in subsection (a)(2) through (a)(4) shall only be available for operationally effective designs deployed as of the date of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, (Public Law 115–31), such as currently deployed steel bollard designs, that prioritize agent safety.”

This is not splitting hairs. That section limits the funds to those designs that were already deployed as of May 5, 2017, when the 2017 omnibus bill was passed. That takes all the President’s prototypes off the table, which were unveiled in Oct. 2017, including the new proposed steel barrier.

On Jan. 19, the President again stated his intention to build the steel barrier, “To physically secure our border, the plan includes $5.7 billion for a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall.  This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea.  These are steel barriers in high-priority locations.”

Fortunately, there is still time to address the inconsistency, with a vote not expected until Thursday. Just remove the conditions on the use of the funds and let the President build the wall he’s asking for.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning expressed dismay over the prohibition in a statement, calling it a cynical “bait and switch.”

“It seems incredible but the Senate funding bill does not allow the steel slat barrier envisioned by President Trump to be built using the $5.7 billion of funds that would be allocated for ‘the wall,’” Manning said, adding, “Instead it would allow fencing and repairs. It is time for Congress, including the Republicans to get serious about border security and it is disheartening that this type of border barrier bait and switch would be attempted at this stage of the shutdown.”

Manning concluded, “Americans for Limited Government urges that the proposed funding bill in the Senate be defeated unless amended to allow for a real barrier to be constructed. It is time to stop playing games with our nation’s security.”

Manning has a point. What’s the point of meeting the President’s request for funding but then prohibiting the wall he is asking for? Why did we have this government shutdown for the wall just to settle for more fencing? What gives?

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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