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White House requests $1.5 billion from Congress to begin border wall construction

A border patrol agent drives along the U.S.-Mexico border crossing on Jan. 26 in San Ysidro, California. The Trump administration is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to begin construction of his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (David McNew/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump will ask Congress for $1.5 billion to begin the construction of his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of his newly released budget plan.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, made the announcement Wednesday, ahead of the release of the president’s proposed budget, which seeks a total of $4.1 billion for the border wall between this year and 2018, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Trump is asking for $1.5 billion for the remainder of this year and $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2018.

“It’s all that we think that we can spend this year,” Mulvaney told reporters. “The next question is going to be how many miles of wall does that build. We don’t know the answer to that question because we haven’t settled on construction types. We haven’t settled on where we’re going to start.”

Throughout the campaign, Trump promised to construct a “big, beautiful wall” along the United States’ southern perimeter. And since the administration opened the bidding for construction, many businesses, an unexpected number of which are Hispanic-owned, have shown interest in building the wall.

In the first week of his presidency, Trump signed an executive order calling for the “immediate” construction of a border wall and also vowed “100 percent repayment” from Mexico. The White House has not yet made it clear how that will happen.

“If he said it on the campaign, it’s in the budget,” Mulvaney said, later noting that funding for the border wall, at least for the time being, will not come from Mexico.

“It's coming out of the treasury,” he said.

According to an analysis from Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, the border wall could cost as much as $21.6 billion and take 3 1/2  years to construct. After the report came out, Trump vowed to bring the price “way down,” though he did not offer specifics.

Funding for the wall has also been a major point of contention in ongoing negotiations over supplemental appropriations. According to The Hill, Senate Democrats have warned the GOP they could risk a government shutdown ahead of next month’s funding deadline if so-called “poison pills,” like funding for the wall, are included in spending bills.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration,” Democratic leaders wrote in a letter Monday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said during a radio interview last week on WHYY-FM that threatening to shut down the government in order to get what they want is the Democrats’ “only card” in negotiations with the Republicans.

“Sen. [Chuck] Schumer, who’s our minority leader, who’s the leader of the Democratic caucus, is regularly negotiating with Majority Leader McConnell over what we are willing to do or not do to shut down the government or shut down the Senate,” he said.

He later added that such negotiations are a “challenge” for Democrats because “we don't want to shut down the government. We actually think the government overall does good things for the American people.”

Lawmakers have until April 28 to pass a measure to continue funding the government and avoid a shutdown.

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