White House Resolute on Wall Despite Worry in Congress

Spicer says border barrier a pledge Trump 'intends to maintain' as moderates cast doubt

Despite a congressional case of nerves, President Donald Trump is determined to build a 2,000-mile wall along the southern border with Mexico.

The 30-foot wall will even be made of concrete, according to the federal government, a largely impassable fix after decades of U.S. frustration with illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“[Trump has] already started to work with the Department of Homeland Security on both the plans and the funding mechanism, and the bidding and the [request for proposals] process will roll out.”

Yet it hasn’t been an easy week for the wall.

During a Wednesday night telephone town hall, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) suggested he did not support the same vision for a border wall as Trump.

Speaking to constituents, Gardner said: “As far as the wall goes, I believe we have to have border security, but I do think billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed. I don’t support a tariff to pay for any kind of wall.”

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Gardner also suggested, as Republicans did long before Trump’s ascension, that personnel and technology could be good substitutes for a wall. Those were the usual talking points made by members of both parties to placate voters faced with the actual impacts of unrestrained illegal immigration and illicit drug flow.

Those talking points appear to be alive and well.

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said, according to Politico. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence. But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.”

But Trump isn’t just “somebody.” He’s the president of the United States, and his unlikely election is due, in part, to criticizing illegal immigration, which voters blamed for stagnant wages and overburdened government services.

One of the key promises Trump made during his 2016 campaign was to finally secure the southern border. Trump promised a wall where there is none now, and to top it off, he dismissed costs with one of the most effective political slogans of the last few decades: “And Mexico will pay for the wall.”

It was the most intriguing part of Trump’s border-wall promise, and that is saying a lot.

Trump has suggested since taking office he still believes he can get Mexico to pony up in one way or another. Early on in his administration, on Jan. 26, Trump fired off a series of tweets that resulted in the cancellation of a proposed White House meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, on Jan. 31.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t think much of the vow. Asked Thursday by Politico if Mexico would pay for the wall, McConnell said, “Uh, no.”

When LifeZette asked about recent criticism of the wall at Friday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said support was not weakening in Congress and that Trump was resolute.

“The president was very clear, that was something that he campaigned on and promised the American people as an effort to both protect our national security and our economic security, and he’s going to fulfill that pledge,” said Spicer. “He’s already started to work with the Department of Homeland Security on both the plans and the funding mechanism, and the bidding and the [request for proposals] process will roll out … shortly. And that’s a pledge he intends to maintain.”

The Trump White House is already empowered to a large degree by existing law to build the wall. (Ironically, the law is named the Secure Fence Act of 2006.) But not even half of the U.S.-Mexico border has fencing.

The Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday said it will seek designs soon. In its initial proposal, the DHS asked for a concrete wall that was “30 feet tall, that will meet requirements for aesthetics, anti-climbing, and resistance to tampering or damage.”

Funding will be a long-term issue, but Trump can start much work now. Companies are already awaiting chances to bid on parts of the construction efforts, according to KQED of San Diego.

And it’s a lot to bid on. The wall could cost between $10 billion and $14 billion, over years. There is a non-contiguous fence along the southern border now, but it’s only about 650 miles, according to The New York Times. It’s unclear if multiple companies will handle the wall, but seems likely.

“We’re attracted to very complex, difficult projects in harsh environments — that’s what we do best,” said Ralph Hicks, vice president of governmental affairs for R.E. Staite Engineering, in an interview with KQED.

It was a task too complicated for the White House and Congress for years — until this year.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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