WASHINGTON – A wall is a wall. Right?
Depends on whom you ask.
So when is a wall not a wall?
House lawmakers are coming up with different answers to that question as they and their Senate colleagues prepare to vote on a bipartisan funding measure to avert another government shutdown and provide $1.375 billion for a barrier in Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
It appears the majority of Republicans and Democrats will back the legislation. But don’t expect them to agree on what to call the structure they are funding.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called a wall "immoral" and many Democrats agree. Still, to justify voting for the border security compromise, Democratic lawmakers are going out of their way to insist that a barrier is not the same thing as a wall.
“Clearly, there is not funding for a wall, and that was very important to us,” Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told reporters Wednesday morning.
Pocan hadn’t made up his mind on the measure Wednesday, but appeared to be leaning toward voting for it. He said the way the legislation had been outlined included a provision requiring the structure to be made of designs from before the 2017 bill.
That would rule out a concrete wall once proposed by President Donald Trump, who promised repeatedly during his presidential campaign that he would build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.
But the bill does allow for a fence made of steel slats, which Trump has more recently endorsed. It does, however, ban the barrier from going through certain areas, such as the Bentsen-Rio State Park, the National Butterfly Center and the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.
Juan Vargas, a Democrat whose San Diego district runs along the border with Mexico, opposes any new physical barrier. He disagreed with Pocan about how to describe the structure outlined in the bill.
“I live there, and nine out of 10 people who go up and take a look, I say, ‘What is that?’ They say: ‘Oh, that’s a wall,’” Vargas said. “They wouldn’t say it’s a fence made of steel. It looks like a wall to me.”
Republicans who want a wall say they don't care what the structure is called, as long as there is one.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said the word wall "undoubtedly matters to the Democrats," but the Republican base doesn't care what it's called. They just want border security.
"Frankly, the president has done a good job taking the abstract (concept) of a wall, and now, making it into border security and how it matters to their community," Collins said. "I think it was slow to get there, but I think people are starting to understand it."
Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the hardline House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of Trump, was more blunt.
If Democrats don't want to call it a wall, "that's fine," the North Carolina Republican said.
“I don’t care what you call it – if it secures our border, it can be a moat," he said.
Meadows opposes the legislation, but he said if the president were to sign it, his base would forgive him as long as he was going to look elsewhere for money to boost construction beyond what the bill provides.
But not everyone was willing to play along.
“This whole semantics issue is so childish," said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., the co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group equally split between Republicans and Democrats that aims to find bipartisan policy solutions.
"Whether it’s a steel, concrete barrier or it’s a see-through material – bottom line, we’re better than this," Reed said. "We should be able to come together and say, 'Look, we want to secure the border. How do we do it?' And don’t be afraid of a word."
Even Trump doesn't seem all that hung up on calling it a wall. He once said it didn't matter what Democrats called the structure – he just wanted $5.7 billion to pay for it.
For all he cares, he said, they can call it "peaches."
Contributing: Michael Collins
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When is a wall not a wall? Lawmakers argue over what they would be funding at the border