The FY21 budget request includes $2 billion for construction of President Trump’s border wall along the Southwest border. And although this is roughly 50 percent more than Congress approved for wall construction for the current year, it pales in comparison to the $8.6 billion that President Trump requested for his border wall in FY 2020.
And there may be a good reason – Congress has been reluctant to support the president’s border wall plan.
Unlike last year, the FY21 budget request doesn’t include any Pentagon money for the border wall. As you may remember, the administration’s FY20 request included $5 billion for border wall construction in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request (where it belongs), and an additional $3.6 billion in the Defense Department’s FY20 request. But lawmakers proved unwilling to go along with this plan. In an omnibus FY20 appropriations bills enacted in December, Congress included only $1.375 billion for border barrier construction.
Congress forced President Trump to settle for the same amount for barrier construction in FY19, following the longest government shutdown in history. At that time, it even specified that while the funding was available for barrier construction, it could not be used on the president’s border wall project. In response, President Trump declared a national emergency that he claimed allowed him to shift almost three times as much money from the Pentagon’s Military Construction accounts to wall building, despite Congressional objections. And this past summer the Supreme Court ruled that the funds could be used while litigation over the issue continues.
While the administration isn’t asking for additional Pentagon dollars for President Trump’s wall in FY21, it hasn’t requested funds to replenish the $3.6 billion it took from military construction projects for the wall last year either. And according to recent media reports the Department of Homeland Security has asked the Pentagon to fund the construction of 270 miles of border wall this year as part of a counter-drug effort, at a cost of $7.2 billion. In response, a number of House Democrats have reportedly written to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, warning that the plan would hurt military readiness.
So, when it comes to President Trump’s efforts to build his wall, the annual budget process is rapidly becoming an obstacle, rather than a vehicle, for moving forward on funding.