Paying for the wall -- Coast Guard, TSA, FEMA, and Secret Service?

Who will pay for the wall on the southern border? Donald Trump made it a campaign mantra that he would build the wall and Mexico would cover the costs. In its first budget proposal, however, the Trump administration raises much of the cash by cutting funding to key national security agencies, according to ABC News:

The Trump administration is considering cuts to the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Secret Service and FEMA — including cuts to several notable national security and emergency response initiatives — to help fund the president’s border wall and deportation efforts, according to a draft budget blueprint obtained by ABC News.

The proposal from the Office of Management and Budget, which is circulating on Capitol Hill and within the administration, outlines a $1.3 billion overall cut to the Coast Guard’s budget, equivalent to 14 percent of the agency’s funding last year. The draft would cut funding for Maritime Security Response Teams and scuttled a contract for a new cutter for the Coast Guard fleet.

TSA would lose more than $500 million in funding, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency would face an approximately $370 million cut, reducing grant funding for emergency preparedness and countering violent extremism (a program to help states and communities prepare for and prevent extremist threats).

The heat for these cuts will fall at least in part on OMB director Mick Mulvaney, and may reopen some wounds in the GOP. John McCain opposed Mulvaney’s confirmation because of Mulvaney’s willingness to cut military spending and back out of Afghanistan. McCain turned out to be the only Republican to vote against Mulvaney’s nomination, but this penurious approach to security spending will be bound to revive those arguments, and perhaps see them metastasize.

Some of these cuts might make sense as a trade-off for securing the southern border better. Some of them don’t at all, especially the cuts to the Coast Guard. If the US secures the southern border, where will the drug traffic go? It’s not just going to stop; the cartels have too much to lose and the US provides too lucrative a market. It will either go underground through tunnels, up in the air, or on the sea — and the latter is the path of least resistance. We will need a more robust Coast Guard to deal with the consequences of a secured southern border rather than a trimmed-down one.

But what happened to Mexico paying for the wall? The Trump administration has openly considered a border-tax adjustment plan for raising funds, as well as taxing remittances to Mexico, as revenue sources, but they apparently aren’t robust enough to provide the $15-20 billion it will take. As far as getting the money directly from Mexico, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says not to hold your breath:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday threw cold water on President Donald Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for his proposed border wall.

“Uh, no,” McConnell said flatly, asked whether he thinks Mexico will foot the bill in an interview with POLITICO Playbook’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer.

Chris Cillizza wonders whether Trump can pull off a miracle like he did in the 2016 election:

It is, of course, possible that Trump pulls off a miracle and convinces Mexico — despite the country’s repeated denials — that it makes sense to pay for the wall. Trump was, after all, never supposed to win the Republican nomination and no one thought he even had a chance in the general election against Hillary Clinton. And yet, here we are.

But the prevailing sentiment within Washington Republican circles is that a scenario like that coming to pass is very, very unlikely — meaning that, at the end of the day, the wall’s construction will be paid for by taxpayers. McConnell’s blunt response makes that belief plain. If congressional Republicans go forward with a wall-funding plan, they won’t be able to argue they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.

It’s not just the prevailing scenario in Washington Republican circles. If ABC’s review of the OMB plan is accurate, it’s also the prevailing view within the White House. They’re apparently not expecting any miracles, so there’s not much point in believing that one will arise.