House Republicans approved Thursday the first block of federal funds to start construction on a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The $1.6 billion was tucked into a $788 billion spending package that passed the House 235-192, with all but five Republicans in favor and all but five Democrats opposed. The bill largely funds defense and veteran programs, along with Department of Energy and legislative operations.
The $1.6 billion — none of which is coming from Mexico’s government — matches President Trump’s full request for wall funding in fiscal year 2018. It would go toward building 60 miles of new wall in the Rio Grande Valley and replacing 14 miles of fencing near San Diego.
By squeezing the wall funds into the spending bill, Republicans avoided an explicit vote on the wall itself. That’s a small victory given how uncertain an up-or-down vote would have been in the House, where moderates remain noncommittal.
But the victory is likely to be short-lived. Spending bills require 60 votes once they reach the Senate, and Democrats won’t vote for wall funding. On the Senate floor earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer singled out the border wall as one of the things Democrats would reject in a spending bill. Otherwise, he suggested, Congress will be on a path that “can only lead to a government shutdown.”
That’s something the White House might actually favor. In May, Trump tweeted that the country needs a “good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
If Senate Republicans try to force wall funding into the budget, Trump might get his wish.