Trump to seek $8.6 billion to finish border wall before 2020 election

President Donald Trump will ask Congress for another $8.6 billion to complete a 722-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a senior administration official told POLITICO on Sunday, part of a cost-cutting opening budget offer that will dismiss hopes for a grand budget deal and likely stoke fresh fears of another government shutdown.

The president will make the request on Monday in his broader proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which ends just one month before the 2020 presidential election. The sum — billions of dollars higher than the $5.7 billion border-security demand that sparked the 35-day government shutdown — will surely divide spending negotiators again this year, likely resulting in static funding levels for much of the rest of the government or another lapse.

The administration already plans to use $8.1 billion in the current fiscal year to finish more than half of the wall by dipping into other funding sources, including through Trump’s controversial emergency order that Congress is moving toward rebuking. The $8.6 billion request for fiscal 2020 would allow the administration to complete all 722 miles, according to the administration official, who spoke on background.

Reuters first reported the $8.6 billion request.

In his overall proposal, Trump will put on paper what the White House has already prepared lawmakers to receive — an audacious plan for sucking 5 percent from the budgets of nonmilitary arms of the federal government, while using an accounting trick to bust beyond set spending limits for defense programs. The 5 percent would be below the fiscal 2019 budget limits for domestic agencies.

The administration will also project robust economic growth above 3 percent, propose taking longer to balance the books than Republicans have advocated in the past and seek funding for a new Space Force within the Air Force.

Although the request is merely a messaging document, the president’s posture will contribute to apprehension about a government shutdown, some seven months before federal funding runs out again on Sept. 30.

On Capitol Hill, even Republicans are saying the president will need to come to the realization that the GOP must give some ground this year to Democrats, who hold the House majority and 47 seats in the Senate. But the Trump administration wants to hold fast to its mission to slash spending.

In recent years, Democrats in Congress have insisted that spending increases above the budget caps remain equal for defense and nondefense spending. But Trump administration officials say the president won’t bend this time to those demands of funding “parity.”

Congressional Republicans say that could produce another stalemate and shutdown.

“Sorry, you’re elected to deal, you’ve got to deal,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the spending subcommittee that funds the departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services. “They’re going to all have to compromise. … And the longer they delay, the more threatening it will be to the economy, the more likely we are to slide into some sort of confrontation that results in a government shutdown.”

Besides 5 percent cuts below fiscal 2019 caps for nondefense programs, Trump’s budget request is expected to project economic growth of 3.2 percent this year, 3.1 percent in 2020, 3 percent in 2021 and 2.8 percent in 2026, with a 10-year forecast of 3 percent.

The plan will also seek to balance the budget within 15 years, by 2034, rather than bringing spending in line with revenue over the typical 10-year period that’s been a goal for Republicans.

 

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