President Trump will request from Congress at least $8.6 billion to build additional sections of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. This money is in addition to the $1.3 billion Congress appropriated earlier this year and the approximately $7 billion Trump “appropriated” via his declaration of a national emergency at the border.
Trump will seek the $8.6 billion as part of his proposed 2020 budget. The budget also calls for 5 percent cuts in most domestic spending programs and an increase in military spending.
The Democrats declared Trump’s proposal for more border wall money a non-starter. “We hope he learned his lesson” from the recent bruising battle over the wall, Speaker Nancy Pelosi intoned.
Trump seems to have emerged from that battle unscathed, though. His poll numbers show no decline in popularity as a result of the shutdown and the ensuing deal.
Trump would be foolhardy not to seek significant wall funding in the 2020 budget. Even with the funds he found in connection with his national emergency declaration, Trump doesn’t have the money he needs to build the walling/fencing he wants. It’s also unclear that the judiciary will uphold Trump’s self-appropriation of money for the wall.
Thus, failure to seek substantial wall funding in the 2020 budget would signal capitulation in the fight to fulfill his signature campaign promise.
By fighting on, Trump keeps his signature issue alive for the 2020 election. It’s even possible that the Democrats will give him a little more money for the wall. Congress and the White House must agree on a new budget deal by the end of September. They must also agree to a resolution raising the debt ceiling at around that same time, or else risk having the government fall behind on its obligations, which could rattle the economy and financial markets.
Although another government shutdown isn’t in Trump’s interest, and he certainly won’t want to rattle the economy and financial markets, the September-October deadlines do mean that Democrats will have to negotiate. It’s possible they will agree to some wall funding in exchange for more funding for domestic programs. It’s possible they will agree to some wall funding in exchange for concessions for the DACA population or, more broadly, for “Dreamers.”
I wouldn’t bet on these outcomes. Congressional Democrats don’t have anything much against the wall, but they are determined to prevent Trump from building much of it because they think they can deal him a deadly political blow in that way.
Trump would deal himself a more serious blow if he didn’t renew his fight for wall funding via the 2020 budget.