Translation: Don’t ask us for daily reaction to Donald Trump’s tweets. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that explanation all but explicit in his remarks in the press conference at the Republican retreat this morning.
“We are on the same page as the White House,” House Speaker Paul Ryan responded to the first question asked, but “this is going to be an unconventional presidency.” McConnell then added, “I don’t intend to be kind of reacting to daily comments.”
Good luck with that:
Most of the presser dealt with more substantive issues, like Trump’s agenda on immigration. Ryan pledged to fully fund Trump’s executive order with an appropriation in the next annual budget for up to $15 billion to build the rest of the wall on the southern border. He also pointed out that Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the same spending a decade ago, the last time Republicans had single-party control of Washington:
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will authorize $12 to $15 billion for a wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border as soon as Sept. 30, the Republican leaders said Thursday.
They would not say whether they would offset the costs of the wall — which President Trump repeatedly vowed would be paid for by Mexico — with budget cuts elsewhere or taxes. The comments came midway through the Republicans’ annual retreat, this year called “Congress of Tomorrow,” during which lawmakers are plotting their first 200 days of repealing and replacing Obamacare and reforming the tax code. …
Trump signed an executive action Wednesday ordering the wall’s construction. But the text of the executive order defines a wall as a “contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.” That leaves open the possibility that the “wall” could resemble existing fencing.
Nearly 700 miles of the southern border is already fenced off, thanks to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which garnered bipartisan support. (Ryan pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voted for it.) One analysis suggests building an entirely new wall would cost $40 billion, far less [sic] than the $15 billion McConnell and Ryan are talking about.
Some may wonder what happened to the funds in 2006’s budget compromise, but they’ve long ago been spent — on the parts of the wall that did get built. They only wound up appropriating $1.2 billion, even though the Secure Fence Act of 2006 envisioned a total commitment of around $5.5 billion to accomplish its task.
What happened? Democrats took over Congress in 2007, and never added to the initial appropriation of $1.2 billion. This time around, Republicans are taking no chances. The new funding triples that original estimate and allocates the funds all at once to accomplish it, rather than in the piecemeal manner of 2006. They can’t effectively do this any sooner than in the next budget cycle because of the nature of the existing budget agreements, but it’ll get passed and have it started before the end of the year.
That’s a large outlay of cash, though, large enough to become an issue in budget negotiations. Fortunately for the GOP, budgets are not susceptible to filibusters, but not every Republican in the Senate is going to greet this cheerfully. After more than a decade of punting on border security, though, they’d better vote for it or face a very hostile base in a midterm election in which the GOP should have a huge success in Senate races.