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GOP Congressman Floats Passing Border Wall Funding Through Budget Reconciliation

Process would allow for simple-majority vote in the Senate, but both chambers would need to pass a budget first

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., says his legislation aims to prevent Democrats from continuing to “block our efforts to build a wall along our southern border.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., says his legislation aims to prevent Democrats from continuing to “block our efforts to build a wall along our southern border.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne announced Monday that he has introduced legislation to use the budget reconciliation process to provide for up to $25 billion for President Donald Trump to construct his border wall before the end of his first term.

The bill, co-sponsored by 15 House Republicans, would allow the GOP to pass wall funding with a simple-majority vote in the Senate by using the reconciliation process — if the measure can withstand a “Byrd bath,” the scrubbing of the bill for violations of the Senate’s reconciliation rules. 

And there’s another big problem: Neither chamber has passed a budget resolution this year. 

House and Senate leaders, however, could easily put together a so-called shell budget for the purposes of providing reconciliation instructions for legislation to appropriate border wall funding. 

The question is whether that’s something Republican leaders would want to pursue. The answer will likely depend in part on the outcome of next month’s midterms.

Flashback: Trump Says Wall Is Coming, Predicts a ‘Red Wave’ in November

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The congressional debate over wall funding is expected to come to a head during the lame-duck session after the November elections.

Lawmakers gave themselves until Dec. 7 to pass the seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills that they did not complete before the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2019. That includes the Department of Homeland Security spending bill in which any wall funding would be included. 

House and Senate Republicans have said they’re prepared to fight for border wall funding, but it’s the House GOP that seems more willing to invoke a partial government shutdown if needed to get its way.

“I think there may be a willingness now that there wouldn’t be before,” Byrne told Roll Call in September after Congress passed an appropriations package that included Republicans’ top spending priority — defense. 

Byrne’s bill to use the reconciliation process to get wall funding would provide an alternative for Republicans who don’t want to use the threat of a partial shutdown to try to leverage Democratic votes. 

It would establish a Border Wall and Security Trust Fund, allowing it to be filled with up to $25 billion “out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, such sums as the Secretary of Homeland Security may request of the Secretary of Treasury on or after October 1, 2018,” according to the bill text. 

The language seems designed to avoid a Byrd issue by providing for direct spending that is outside the normal appropriations process.

The money in the trust fund should be used to construct a wall, “including physical barriers and associated detection technology, roads, and lighting,” along the southern U.S. border with Mexico by January 19, 2021, the bill reads. 

The authority for the trust fund will expire at the end of fiscal 2028, with any obligated funds returned to the general fund of the Treasury. 

“Border security is national security, and we cannot allow Democrats to continue to block our efforts to build a wall along our southern border,” Byrne said in a statement. “That is why I am introducing the 50 Votes for the Wall Act, which creates a process to overcome the Democrat obstruction and move forward with plans to construct President Donald Trump’s border wall.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. 

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