The top Senate appropriator with jurisdiction over Department of Homeland Security funding thinks there is room to put more money into President Donald Trump’s top budget priority: his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said this week she could support spending up to $5 billion on the border wall, as Trump has informally requested, even though that is three times the $1.6 billion her subcommittee's fiscal 2019 spending bill would allocate for the wall.
Capito said she initially had concerns that such a level of spending could not be efficiently and effectively spent. But after several briefings from federal agencies, she said she believes it could be.
“I think it can be effectively used,” she said. “I think they’re quoting 200 miles, and along with the system that goes along with that. So I mean, from the briefings that I’ve had, it looks as though that system with $5 billion can be handled by the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the [Army Corps of Engineers] and others.”
“I think $5 billion would be an effective amount,” she said. “I’m not sure we can get there.”
The House Appropriations Committee's draft version, which the panel is scheduled to mark up Wednesday, contains the full $5 billion. But that chamber also has a Homeland Security Subcommittee funding allocation that is $3.1 billion larger than the Senate's. Senate appropriators declined to allocate that much money to Homeland Security in the interest of providing more equitable shares of next year’s $597 billion nondefense discretionary spending limit to other bills.
Capito said her bill could end up getting folded into a package in the Senate — possibly with the State-Foreign Operations and Commerce-Justice-Science spending bills.
The House currently has no timetable for bringing the Homeland Security bill to the floor. It is the last of the 12 fiscal 2019 measures to emerge from the Appropriations Committee.
“The House has left this bill to be their last bill over,” Capito said. “It obviously presents great challenges politically and otherwise.”
Watch: Trump Asks GOP Lawmakers for Border Wall Funding