WASHINGTON DC – President Donald Trump lashed out at Congress on Thursday Sep. 20, for failing to deliver his long-promised border wall, unleashing a tweet that accused Democrats of “obstructing” border security and demanded that “REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!”
The trouble for Trump is that it’s his own GOP allies – not just his political opponents – who have been standing in the way.
The same Republican lawmakers who rushed through the tax bill Trump wanted, confirmed his first Supreme Court pick and are fighting to defend his second, and have remained largely deferential amid multiple scandals, have taken a far different approach when it comes to one of Trump’s most memorable campaign promises – deeming the wall to be impractical, unrealistic and too costly.
“People can climb over the wall or go under the wall or through the wall. We’ve seen that in different places,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, explaining why a system of technology, infrastructure and personnel is preferable to a physical wall. “If it’s just unattended without sensors, without technology, without people, then it won’t work.”
Another powerful Republican, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, Ala., said he told Trump that funding a 2,000-mile-long wall could jeopardize money for the military and other core programs.
“Some things are reachable and some things aren’t,” Shelby said he told Trump. “I’m committed to securing the borders, whatever it takes in this country; it’s something we haven’t done. But I’m also committed to funding the government.”
The GOP’s recalcitrance on the wall underscores the extent to which immigration and border issues continue to roil the party in the two years since Trump swept into office vowing to take a hard-line approach on the issue.
The idea of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border remains hugely popular among Trump’s core supporters, with chants of “build that wall” still ringing out at his rallies, and numerous candidates in this year’s midterms echoing Trump’s rhetoric. In Florida, gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis released a campaign ad showing him urging his little son to construct a wall using building blocks.
But the issue is not as clear-cut for many other Republicans. Border state lawmakers face concerns from landowners and businesses that could be face disruption by the construction of a massive barrier. Others represent states and districts with large Hispanic electorates that could be turned off by the idea, while others say the idea of a big wall may be a nice applause line but risks funneling precious funds away from more essential government functions.
Behind all the rationalizing lies a hardening reality: Many congressional Republicans just aren’t that into Trump’s wall.
Now, Republican leaders are more focused on urging Trump to delay a fight for the wall than on fighting for it themselves. Congress is working to pass a short-term spending bill that would avert a government shutdown Oct. 1 and punt a showdown over wall funding into December, after the November midterms.