Trump asks Congress to pay for the border wall

CNN was gloating last night that this is a broken promise, but is it? Watch this short clip from late October, where Trump talks about Mexico “reimbursing” the U.S. for the cost of the wall.

Congress fronts the money, then Mexico pays us back. That was his position this morning, too:

Did people think that he and Pena-Nieto were going to hold some ceremony in advance where Mexico presents Trump with one of those big sweepstakes checks? Trump ally Chris Collins imagined payment being made this way, which also seems not so likely:

New York Rep. Chris Collins said Friday that American taxpayers would front the cost for the wall but that he was confident Trump could negotiate getting the money back from Mexico.

“When you understand that Mexico’s economy is dependent upon US consumers, Donald Trump has all the cards he needs to play,” Collins, congressional liaison for the Trump transition team, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “On the trade negotiation side, I don’t think it’s that difficult for Donald Trump to convince Mexico that it’s in their best interest to reimburse us for building the wall.”

Imagine the U.S. freezing trade with Mexico until it coughs up payment for the wall. The way “payment” will be made, if it’s made, is through a combination of accounting tricks in trade deals, impounding some remittances sent to Mexico by illegals in the U.S., and, if all else fails, claiming that American jobs that were headed south of the border but ended up staying here during Trump’s presidency is itself a form of payment by Mexico. Plus, parts of “the wall” have already been built over the past 10 years via the fencing that’s gone up along different parts of the border. Trump will end up taking credit for that and including it as part of his wall because, well, he’s Trump.

His team is taking the position that Congress doesn’t need to pass a new law authorizing the wall because the law it passed in 2006 creating a border fence already gives him the power he needs to build it. The catch, as noted above, is that someone still needs to pay for it, and that someone (for the moment) is Congress. Question: Would Schumer and the Democrats attempt to filibuster an appropriations bill that includes money for the wall if Trump doesn’t give them a concession on legalization in return? The church of comprehensive reform, of which Schumer is a devout member, holds that all new enforcement measures must be balanced by new legalization measures to keep the left happy. If Trump gets his money for the wall and Democrats get nothing in return, amnesty shills will come to Schumer demanding to know why. On the other hand, appropriations bills are must-pass bills; even if he wanted to filibuster, he wouldn’t be able to do it forever. And given the realities of 2018, he might not be able to mount a filibuster in the first place. There are plenty of red-state Democrats whose seats are up in two years who’ll be nervous about blocking the border wall. It’s true that the wall hasn’t polled well thus far (although the polling typically asks about a wall across the entire border, which isn’t in the offing), but a Democrat who’s running for reelection in a state Trump won doesn’t care what national polling has to say on this.

Interesting bit in this AP story about the wall: Do border hawks maybe want Congress to have to vote on the wall?

However, some immigration hard-liners have already expressed the desire to see Congress take a vote given how prominent the wall was during Trump’s presidential campaign, and their desire to act on the issue.

If you think the wall will be popular once it’s up, why not force Democrats to go on record against it by demanding that Congress pass a standalone bill approving a new wall? If Schumer filibusters that bill, you’ve got some attack-ad material for 2018 and you can still fall back on the approach described above, that the new bill isn’t actually necessary because the wall was already authorized in 2006. Democrats might sue over that, but then they’re probably going to sue anyway. So why not hold a new vote? If you think the wall will be a political winner for Trump, make the left own its opposition.

Here’s Kellyanne Conway assuring Trump fans that Mexico will pay for the wall, don’t you worry.