Trump's $8.6 billion border wall request sets up months more fighting with Democrats ahead of 2020

Key Points
  • The White House will ask for $8.6 billion for President Trump's proposed border wall in its fiscal 2020 budget proposal.
  • It sets up a continuing fight over the funding in the coming months and raises the prospect of another government shutdown in October.
  • Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer quickly criticized Trump's request for more money for the wall.
Construction workers are seen next to heavy machinery while working on a new border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, as seen from the Mexican side of the border in San Jeronimo, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 23, 2018.
Jose Luis Gonzalez | Reuters

Washington just emerged from one ugly government shutdown fight over President Donald Trump's proposed border wall. Another could sit right around the corner.

The White House's fiscal 2020 budget, which it released Monday, will call for $8.6 billion to build barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought told CNBC. While the proposal is only a request, it shows Trump wants more money for the project than appropriators in Congress are willing to give him.

Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to construct his wall — and congressional Democrats' refusal to approve the money — caused a record 35-day partial government shutdown during December and January. He eventually signed a bill last month to reopen the government through September. It put only $1.4 billion toward the wall.

At the same time, the president declared a national emergency and took other executive actions to secure $8 billion in total barrier funding. The Democratic-held House has voted to block the declaration, and the GOP-controlled Senate is set to do so this week. Trump has promised to veto the congressional resolution.

The president's new funding request sets up yet another standoff with Congress over immigration. It creates the specter of another government closure in October, as Democratic leaders have already warned they will not meet his latest demand.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conduct a news conference in the Capitol about a continuing resolution to re-open the government on Friday, January 25, 2019.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images

"President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Sunday. "Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson."

The wall — a key Trump campaign promise — likely will not disappear as an issue, especially as the president seeks re-election next year. Even after Trump rejects the bill to block the emergency declaration, his administration will have to defend against various lawsuits challenging the flex of executive power.

Trump has seemed content to make each of the past two elections — the 2018 midterms and his campaign for the White House in 2016 — about his effort to crack down on immigration. He has repeatedly claimed the U.S. has to build barriers to stop illegal immigration, and once floated the need for $25 billion to construct them.

President Donald Trump (C) is shown border wall prototypes in San Diego, California on March 13, 2018.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The $8.6 billion Trump seeks in fiscal 2020 tops the $8 billion in total that he hopes to secure through the emergency declaration and executive actions. It would also easily outpace the $1.4 billion that Congress set aside for barriers in its fiscal 2019 appropriations.

Congress has many thorny money issues to sort out this year. Lawmakers need to fund the government by Oct. 1 to avoid another shutdown. Part of the argument will surround mandatory spending caps, which would cause automatic cuts to certain programs if Congress cannot lift them.

The Treasury will also run out of money in the coming months if lawmakers cannot raise or suspend the federal debt ceiling. That would raise the prospect of default, which would wreak havoc on the U.S. and global economies.

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