President Trump Should Split the Difference on the Border Wall

By Richard Morris & Eileen McGann

January 24, 2019 3 min read

In Washington, something's got to give. An irresistible force cannot keep butting against an immovable object while 800,000 unpaid federal workers and their families look on in anguish.

And a solution is easily in sight.

As the saying goes: Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither can the wall be built in a year. So the compromise is obvious: Go for half a loaf (or half a wall) now and get the rest next year.

Right now, there are 654 miles of border barrier along the 1,954-mile Mexican border. Construction began under President Bill Clinton. Hundreds of miles were added under President George Bush and about 133 were added under President Barack Obama (before the Democratic Party developed its allergy to walls.)

And there are now 124 miles of wall under construction or about to be built (and already funded and approved).

That leaves about 1,174 miles of wall still to be built.

Trump wants $5.7 billion for wall construction. In February 2018, he said that the full wall would cost $8 billion. Critics say the cost is more like $15 billion to $25 billion.

What is clear is that the $5.7 billion Trump now seeks won't be enough to finish the wall. But it will add materially to the wall that already exists.

The Democrats are willing to spend at least $1.6 billion more on border security — but are not willing to allow any of that to be spent on new wall construction.

If Trump proposed to the Democrats border wall spending of $3 billion — splitting the difference between the money in their two proposals — he would get to add at least 300 miles to the current border wall and could pledge to come back next year for more to finish the job.

His political base would be happy. The wall was not going to be finished this year anyway. And what difference does it make as long as it's being built?

The Democrats would likely reject the proposal, but the logic of splitting the difference — meeting them halfway — would end the drop in the president's approval rating that the current impasse is causing.

Indeed, it would provide a forum — akin to the Kavanaugh hearings — in which to show the public the intransigence and ideological rigidity of the current Democratic Party. Voters would see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejecting compromise and keeping the government closed.

With 654 miles of border barrier already in existence — and paid for by Democratic votes in Congress — how can the Democrats make principled opposition to the wall their consistent message? Even for them, that would be a stretch.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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