Trump to Seek $8.6 Billion for Wall, Set Up New Budget Fight

Justin Sink
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Trump to Seek $8.6 Billion for Wall, Set Up New Budget Fight

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump will request at least $8.6 billion in new funding for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border as part of his budget request to be released Monday. The budget plan will also assume continued robust economic growth in the U.S.

The president’s proposal asks for an additional $5 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion in new military construction funds, plus an additional $3.6 billion to replace previously appropriated funding that Trump wants to use for the wall, according to a senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of its release.

The request is in addition to the funds that Trump is hoping to allocate through executive action after declaring a national emergency in February over the situation on the border, a move likely to tee up a new battle with Congress.

Overall, the White House looks to secure funding -- via this year’s budget, Trump’s emergency declaration and previous appropriations -- for 722 miles (1,162 km) of border barrier, using an estimated cost of about $25 million per mile of wall or fencing.

“The whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Sunday in an interview with Fox News. “We have a crisis down there.”

The White House request, reported earlier by Reuters, represents the first marker in what’s certain to be another protracted battle between the Trump administration and congressional negotiators -- particularly Democrats who hold the majority in the House.

Democratic Response

“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday in a joint statement. “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.”

Trump rejected a bipartisan funding agreement in late 2018 because it didn’t include enough wall funding, leading to a 35-day federal government shutdown. He finally agreed to reopen the government when lawmakers provided him $1.375 billion for new border construction, and he then announced his plans for the national emergency.

The House voted Feb. 26 to block the emergency declaration, and enough Republicans have said they’ll also vote against it for it to pass in the Senate. But neither chamber appears to have the votes to override a promised presidential veto.

‘Stopping an Invasion’

Trump said he’s “stopping an invasion” of the U.S. in Twitter comments Saturday directed at conservative commentator Ann Coulter, whose criticism reportedly helped inspire his decision to hunker down for a record-long shutdown.

The request is just a part of the president’s 2020 budget blueprint, which he’s expected to present to lawmakers on Monday. It’s the first since Democrats won control of the House in November’s mid-term elections, and it’ll will kick off months of bargaining over his spending requests and proposed funding cuts for many domestic programs.

The budget will meet the president’s goal of a 5 percent cut to non-discretionary domestic spending from the budget caps in fiscal 2019, a second senior administration official said.

The budget document also includes economic projections for the next decade, with the administration forecasting continued expansion.

The budget document will project the economy growing at an average of 3 percent annually over the net decade, according to the official, including 3.2 percent growth for 2019. The White House predicts the economy will grow 3.1 percent in 2020, 3 percent in 2021, and 2.8 percent in 2026. The economic projections were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The projections are at odds with those of many private forecasters. A Bloomberg survey puts the consensus U.S. GDP forecast for 2019 at 2.5 percent, trailing off to 1.9 percent in 2020 as the impact of the 2017 Republican tax cuts fades.

(Updates with detail from second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Mark Niquette

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