Trump seeks $8.6bn in new funding to build Mexican border wall

Democrats slam latest request from Congress as ‘gut-punch to American middle class’

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: President Donald Trump is “doing his job. He’s doing what Congress should be doing.” Photograph: Doug Mills/New York Times

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: President Donald Trump is “doing his job. He’s doing what Congress should be doing.” Photograph: Doug Mills/New York Times

 

A new front in the battle over a proposed border wall has opened up as US president Donald Trump requested $8.6 billion (€7.6 billion) in new funding from Congress to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The figure was included in the Trump administration’s proposed budget package for next year, which was published on Monday.

The $4.7 trillion federal budget includes $32.5 billion for border security and immigration, including the proposed funding for the wall. Mr Trump has also pledged to hire 1,750 customs and border protection agents and fund extra beds for those detained at the border.

Administration officials said that the budget would address the national debt crisis, noting that the national debt currently stands at more than $22 trillion. They plan to reduce spending by $2.7 trillion over 10 years, by curbing spending on several federal programmes, but increasing spending on defence.

Speaking to reporters, acting head of the office of management and budget Russel Vought said: “Washington has a spending problem and it endangers the future prosperity of our nation for generations to come.” He also pointed out that the increase in defence spending was “not funding for endless wars” but spending on research and development and procurement.

But Democrats slammed the proposal. “The Trump administration’s latest budget proposal is a gut-punch to the American middle class and a handout to the wealthiest few and powerful special interests that would worsen income inequality,” said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. “Its proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and social security, as well as numerous other middle-class programmes, are devastating, but not surprising.”

‘National emergency’

The new budget proposals were published ahead of a vote expected in the Senate this week on Mr Trump’s decision last month to declare a national emergency on immigration.

The Democratically controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the move, forcing the Senate to bring forward its own resolution. But though Republicans control the Senate, several members of Mr Trump’s party have indicated they may vote against the proposal amid concern that the president is overstepping his constitutional remit in declaring the current immigration situation a national emergency.

While Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has not yet scheduled a vote, it is expected to take place before the Senate breaks for a recess next week.

If the resolution passes due to Republican support, Mr Trump is likely to be forced to issue the first veto of his presidency. Ultimately, both chambers would need a two-thirds majority to override that veto, a scenario that is highly unlikely.

‘Possible defectors’

The president referred to the imminent vote in a tweet on Monday:

“Republican Senators have a very easy vote this week. It is about Border Security and the Wall (stopping Crime, Drugs etc.), not Constitutionality and Precedent,” he tweeted. “It is an 80 per cent positive issue.” He accused Democrats of being united on “open borders and crime”, concluding “Get tough R’s!”

Asked what the president was doing to try to convince possible defectors within the Republican ranks on Capitol Hill, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during a rare press briefing on Monday: “He’s doing his job. He’s doing what Congress should be doing. He has a constitutional duty to protect people in this country,” she said, describing the immigration situation at the border as a humanitarian crisis. “He gave Congress a number of opportunities to address it and they failed to do so.”

Building a wall with Mexico was one of Mr Trump’s key campaign promises during the midterm elections. Despite claiming that Mexico would pay for the wall, Mr Trump has been seeking money from Congress to construct a barrier. But the lack of support from Democrats forced him to declare a national emergency last month in order to bypass Congress and tap money for his proposed wall.