The estimated price tag on President Trump’s “big, beautiful” southern border wall is $25 billion—a paltry sum compared with the ways government otherwise fritters away taxpayers’ dollars. Yet a government shutdown looms—and Democrats can’t have that.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) paid a visit to the White House on Tuesday to make a deal with the president to pass a continuing budget resolution that would keep the government running through March. Trump said he would be more than happy to deal—as long as Congress gives him his wall.
Democrats can’t have that, either.
Pelosi, who will almost certainly be the new speaker of the House when the new Congress convenes in January, told reporters on Thursday that Trump won’t get his wall and vowed to keep the government “closed forever” if that’s what it takes.
For his part, Trump has insisted that if negotiations with Congress fail, he will simply direct the Pentagon to build the wall.
It’s strange that the president already hasn’t ordered the Pentagon to build the wall. After all, border security is a basic and vital function of the military. The military, however, has been reluctant to engage in this timeless endeavor. When President Trump in October ordered the Pentagon to deploy several thousand U.S. troops shore up the southern border against yet another caravan of illegal aliens, top brass balked. Many argued in the press that the mission was a distraction for the military’s far more important duties, like endlessly and ineffectively securing Afghanistan’s borders.
Understand, the Department of Defense has a budget in excess of $700 billion. The Pentagon is so big and bloated, with a budget process so unwieldy, that for years officials resisted any form of audit. Until this year, when the DOD spent more than $400 million auditing some $2.7 trillion in assets. It will come as no surprise that the budget uncovered a great deal of waste (though not necessarily fraud).
Given all the money sloshing around, it’s fair to say the Pentagon has the cash on hand to build a $25 billion border wall and still have money to spare to continue building and maintaining warplanes that can’t fly.
Yet, this has not happened. The Pentagon continues evading presidential directives to enhance border security, preferring instead to hand off responsibility to the boondoggle that is the Department of Homeland Security. For $25 billion, the entirety of America’s southwestern border could be reinforced with a modern, strong wall. Pentagon leaders insist their budget must go toward “national security priorities.”
What are these priorities? What threats transcend the necessity of defending America’s geographical borders?
In September, the Pentagon was so flush with cash that it engaged in an obscene spending-spree in which it “rushed to spend $111 billion of its $700 billion budget before the end of the fiscal year.” On what did the Pentagon decide to spend the public money that had been lavished upon them—by a supportive President Trump no less?
According to Open the Books, a nonprofit dedicated to government transparency, much of your money has been spent on things ranging from office supplies (such as coffee mugs for the Air Force costing $1,000 each) to weapons for non-military agencies, to alcohol supplies (you read that right). This isn’t the first time the Pentagon has opted to go on a last-minute spending spree. Last year, the Army spent “$6,600 on fidget spinners, $35,000 on an arcade machine and $62,000 on snowboards and paddle boards. In addition, defense contractors were paid $11 billion in seven days.”
So, it’s interesting watching the cogitations of desperate Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Schumer debate the finer points of border security with the president. One of the big takeaways from their public row was that the Democrats will never accept that a physical border wall needs funding, let alone needs to be built. They’ve bought into the bizarre, vaguely Orwellian notion that one can have border security but not build a border wall (kind of like, “if you like your doctor, you can keep him.”)
But just as former President Obama routinely evaded Congress’ authority through unlawful executive orders and other administrative tricks, President Trump can easily outmaneuver Congress when it comes to funding and building the wall.
Forget negotiating with Congress. It’s a dead-end. Just as he ordered the Pentagon to send the troops to the border, he could order the Defense Department to begin construction on the wall immediately. There’s nothing stopping him from doing so. It’s the only way the president will get the wall.
Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images