Trump's 2020 budget is setting up yet another fight over his border wall

The president wants billions more in border wall funding than the $5.7 billion denied by Congress in December.
The president wants billions more in border wall funding than the $5.7 billion denied by Congress in December.

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President Donald Trump won’t give up on funding his border wall. This time, he’s requesting billions more than the $5.7 billion denied by Congress in December — and Democrats have already said no, again.

The president’s budget request for the fiscal year 2020 budget includes $8.6 billion in funding to finish building 722 miles of new wall along the southern border. Trump is also looking to replace $3.6 billion in funding that he moved out of the military budget through his national emergency declaration to build barriers along the border.


By requesting even more money for the wall than he did before, Trump is setting the stage for a standoff come October, the deadline for passing a fiscal-year 2020 budget — and possibly bringing another government shutdown.

Democrats shot back quickly.

“Congress refused to fund his wall, and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government,” Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement on Sunday. “The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.”

The last time Trump tried to secure funding for his wall, he set off a fight with Congress that led to a record 35-day government shutdown, during which 800,000 government workers went without pay and the economy as a whole took a hit to the tune of $11 billion. Trump ultimately reopened the government without funding from Congress for his wall and instead declared a national emergency to siphon off funds from the military budget to build it.

This week, a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate are expected to pass a resolution that would rebuke Trump’s efforts and nix the state of emergency, through which the administration has secured funding for an estimated 234 miles of border wall construction. The president, however, still has veto power, and his critics don’t have enough votes to overturn that. Sixteen states are suing the Trump administration over the emergency declaration, too — and it’s not yet clear Trump’s move will hold up in the courts.


Still, getting the wall built is Trump’s signature campaign promise. In 2016, he campaigned on the slogan, “build the wall.” In 2020, he’s making moves to pivot to “finish the wall.

But wait, there’s more

Also in this budget, Trump wants $72 million for his signature new branch of the military: the Space Force. As what’s intended to be a sixth branch of the military grows, it would cost $500 million a year to maintain.

Plus, Trump wants to expand ICE and military funding. The budget asks for:

  • $314 million to hire an additional 1,000 ICE law enforcement officers
  • $2.7 billion for 54,000 additional detention beds for ICE
  • $367 million for Customs and Border Patrol aircraft, vessels, and surveillance technology
  • $192 million to hire 750 Border Patrol agents, 171 CBP Officers, and support staff
  • $34 billion in new military spending overall — up five percent from last year’s budget

Meanwhile, Trump’s calling for a five percent cut to non-military domestic programs and a total of $2.7 trillion in spending cuts. That’s more than any administration has slashed in domestic programs before. Among those cuts is $845 billion from Medicare, which Trump had previously vowed to protect.

Trump’s budget request is sure to enrage Democrats, but there’s plenty for Republicans to quibble with, too. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to balance the federal budget by the time he left office. With this proposal the budget wouldn’t be balanced for another 15 years.

The 2020 budget also incorporates some pretty rosy predictions about the economy. The Federal Reserve predicts an economic growth rate of 2.3 percent; the Trump administration says 3.2 percent. If economic growth slows, as many economists predict, it could take even longer that 15 years for the budget to balance out.

“This ridiculous request, like the rest of the Trump budget, is not even worth the paper it’s written on,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, the Democrat from New York who chairs of the House Appropriations Committee.

Cover image: In this Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump declares a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo Evan Vucci, File)