DoD's $1 Billion for Trump's Border Wall a 'Fluke', Not a Victory - Prof

© AFP 2022 / Nicholas KammUS President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen to sign an executive order to start the Mexico border wall project at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2017.
US President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen to sign an executive order to start the Mexico border wall project at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2017. - Sputnik International
Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has authorized Monday spending of $1 billion on wall construction along the US-Mexico border.

The Department of Defense has said that the funds would be spent on building 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing, roads, and lighting within the Yuma and El Paso Sectors of the border. US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency last month to free up to $8 billion in federal funding to build a wall on the US southern border. The president has said the wall is needed to prevent criminals and drugs from pouring into the United States. Earlier in March, the Defense Department said it identified $12.8 billion in possible funding that could be used to fulfill Trump's call to construct border wall.

Sputnik has discussed the issue with Laura Wilson, political science professor at the University of Indianapolis.

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Sputnik: To what extent is this development a win for President Trump? How much could it boost his image?

Laura Wilson: The work on the wall is always something the President can effectively claim as a political victory because it is accomplishing the very goal he has set and discussed since he first ran for President three years ago. 

He can frame this action as a win for himself and also give himself credit for fulfilling this political pledge, despite the consistent opposition from Democrats to negate it. 

The money came from the Department of Defense because they said they had extra funds due to shortfalls in recruitment, so it was not the remarkable turn-around victory.

Sputnik: House Democrats are hoping to override President Trump's veto of legislation in a vote with the purpose of voiding his declaration of a national emergency at the nation's southern border. How high are the chances of their success?

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Laura Wilson: The House Democrats needed a supermajority to override the veto, which they were unable to achieve Tuesday afternoon in a 248-181 vote. The measure wasn’t strictly partisan, with 14 Republicans defecting and voting with Democrats in favor of overturning but that support still wasn’t enough to override. 

Politically, it is tricky because the Democrats have a majority of members in the House but not a supermajority (2/3) which is needed for the veto override and many Republicans will support the President’s veto and decide not to vote in favor of overriding it. 

Historically few vetoes have been overridden because of the extra votes needed to override versus just passing something and this push to override ended exactly in that way.

Sputnik: Initially, Trump requested ever more funds for the wall project. How high is the probability that he will manage to get the funds from other projects relocated for the US border security needs?

Laura Wilson: It seems very unlikely the President will ever get the full amount he has requested (at one point, $5.7 billion), especially when he was ultimately awarded only 1/5 of that from Congress and even with the new Department of Defense funds unexpectedly coming in ($1 billion) he is still significantly short of the original ask. 

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There has been a lot of disagreement from both leaders in both parties on the priority of border security relative to other impending costs that the government has to consider. 

Though Democrats are generally more vocal on the issue and certainly more unified, some Republicans (such as Representative Mike Turner from Ohio) have also voiced their concern in using Department of Defense funds for an issue that is not really related to defense. 

Staunch Republicans who support the President won’t waver in giving him as much funding as he wants, but there are too many leaders in Congress who disagree with this effort to make it truly possible.

Sputnik: How necessary is this money for the US security? How much could it help improve the situation along the southern border?

Laura Wilson: The $1 billion coming from the Department of Defense was coming from recruitment funds that weren’t used, so they are not directly related to security at all. 

American politics is a zero-sum game, though, so that money could have been redirected at strengthening or expanding security efforts and instead is being used to secure the border. 

Some see these as mutually reinforcing issues and argue that the border is a security threat, but in considering the likelihood and magnitude of all the security threats facing our country right now, it cannot compete with more serious and larger problems that could arise.

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Sputnik: The wall has been one of the loudest Trump's campaing promises. If he succeeds, how likely is this to bring about his reelection?

Laura Wilson: President Trump has always been effective at spinning results in his favor; gaining this $1 billion for the wall is proportionately insignificant to what he demanded and also somewhat of a fluke (since it wasn’t being used so it was just re-delegated). He can and will use this in campaigning for reelection since he was able to get some of the money he wanted to work on the project. 

He won’t focus on the failures and instead hype up the successes. 

As an incumbent running for re-election, this actually works in his favor because if he was able to achieve everything he said he set out to do, there would be no need for him to be re-elected as President. 

Since he can claim a partial success, President Trump can run on saying he began the wall and now he should be re-elected so he can finish it, which is going to be a solid message for those who supported him originally in 2016.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Laura Wilson and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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