By Rafael Bernal
June 22, 2017
Republican lawmakers who support construction of a border wall want to see more action on border security, as House leadership moves forward with two interior enforcement bills.
There is no legislation being considered to direct wall construction — lawmakers are instead relying on existing laws, such as the Secure Fences Act of 2007, and Department of Homeland Security appropriations for its construction.
“I think the president has more conviction than our leadership does on getting the border wall constructed,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Thursday.
But some of the dissatisfaction should be quelled by two immigration proposals set for floor votes next week.
A senior House Republican aide told The Hill Thursday that floor consideration for two such measures, Kate’s Law and a sanctuary cities bill, is expected next week.
Kate’s Law is a proposal to increase sentences for criminals with multiple illegal re-entries into the country, while the sanctuary cities bill would penalize state and local governments that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The law is named after 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, who was shot by a Mexican immigrant who had unlawfully re-entered the country after being convicted of a separate crime and deported, a case President Trump highlighted on the campaign trail.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said forward momentum on immigration is “the major issue,” calling the two bills that could come up next week “just all rational good policy, and that’s the bottom line.”
Although the border wall was President Trump’s signature campaign issue, Democrats were largely successful in blocking funding for it in May’s omnibus bill.
Under the White House’s proposed 2018 budget, $1.6 billion would be appropriated for construction of a wall out of $2.7 billion slated for border security in general.
That would fund 60 miles of border wall, largely in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, and replace 14 miles of fencing near San Diego, Calif.
For Republicans who support construction of a wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, that’s not enough.
“I think that the president should have brought more, been more aggressive and been stronger. His ask for $1.6 billion to get this thing started, that’s not enough to build a wall even by my numbers,” said King, a longtime proponent of increased immigration enforcement.
Supporters of the wall say it can’t come soon enough, arguing it’s an essential element of border security and something the voters who gave Republicans a majority are demanding.
“While I like the strides that he has made so far with respect to border security, I believe we need to be much more aggressive if we’re going to adequately promote American jobs for American citizens at wages that are adequate for an American family to raise their kids,” Rep. Mo Brooks R-Ala.) said.
“Obviously at this point neither the House nor the Senate nor anybody else is being aggressive enough to build a border wall because it’s not been built,” he added.
Wall funding has proven divisive in both parties, as evidenced by May’s omnibus vote.
Although that budget passed with a healthy majority, members on the right of the Republican Party and left of the Democratic Party voted against it, largely because of bipartisan compromises reached on immigration enforcement.
That’s a scenario that could repeat itself in August.
“If they’re proposing billions of dollars to build a big border wall, I’m not going for that,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who voted against the omnibus.
King said he’s worried about Congress derailing wall construction through a similar compromise.
“And it’s not just leftist Democrats who are for open borders because that enhances their political foundation, but it’s some Republicans that are uneasy because they don’t want to face the criticism,” King said.
Rep. David Valadao, a moderate Republican from California who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said it’s too early to make a call on wall funding.
“I’m not going to commit to anything right now. I think it’s still too early, until we see exactly what the plan is and have a chance to vote on it in Appropriations,” he said.
And for many House Republicans, the real obstacle to getting the wall built is in the Senate, with its 60-vote threshold to consider bills for floor votes.
“In fairness to the White House and the House of Representatives, so long as the Republican leadership in the Senate continues to empower a minority of Democrats to block funding for a border wall, there will not be one built,” Brooks said.
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