The "big beautiful wall" has now become "steel slats."
US President Donald Trump is tweaking the words he uses to describe the barrier he's hoping to build along the US-Mexico border, in part because Democrats appear more likely to sign off on a bill that gives money for "fencing" instead of a "wall."
Trump faced fury from his conservative base earlier this week when he appeared to back off from his pledge to force a government shutdown in an effort to pressure Congress to give him $5 billion to build his long-promised border wall.
He abruptly reversed course Thursday, saying he would not agree to a compromise, sending the government barrelling toward a shutdown.
But even before that happened, Trump had begun to change the way he referred to "the wall" the central promise of his 2016 campaign.
During a bill signing Friday, Trump went further, saying he didn't care what people called it: "One way or the other we're going to get a wall, we're going to get a barrier, we're going to get anything you want to name it. You can name it anything you want."
He later praised the House for "approving strong border security and the money necessary to take care of the barrier, wall or steel slats," adding, "Whatever you want to call it, it's all the same."
That was a far cry from the campaign, when Trump promised to build a "big, beautiful wall" made of concrete, rebar and steel across the length of the southern border. Back then, in 2015, he lashed out at the suggestion that what he was proposing had anything in common with mere fencing:
And just before taking office, Trump corrected a reporter who'd described his plans as such.
"It's not a fence, it's a wall. You just misreported it," Trump said at a post-election press conference.
Even before he took office, 654 miles of manmade barrier had been constructed along the border. And the use of the word "wall" or "fence" wasn't quite the issue. In the 1990s, Congress provided money under the "Secure Fence Act" and constructed much of what stands today. Many refer to what was built then as "border wall." That changed with Trump, in part because of his specific campaign pledge to build a gleaming, impenetrable "border wall" that Mexico was going to pay for.
Now, he wants the American public to pay. And they have. In budget year 2017, Congress provided $292 million to the US Department of Homeland Security to build a steel-bollard wall to replace "ineffective" barriers in Southern California, New Mexico and far West Texas. More than 31 of 40 miles have been constructed, and the nine remaining miles are scheduled to be completed by 2019.
A March funding bill, passed with support from both parties, provided $1.6 billion for the construction of a system with replacements and new barriers, including levees, steel bollards with narrow spacing between each post and, in some locations, both concrete walls and bollards. Sensors and camera technology also will be incorporated to help border officials anticipate illegal crossings. In some places, those barriers could exceed 30 feet.
The lawmakers' language was notably narrow, limiting the administration to use existing barrier designs instead of the new wall prototypes Trump had constructed in San Diego near the border.
That meant Democrats could continue to crow that they'd given Trump no wall money, while Trump claimed he was already well into construction using money that Congress approved for border security.
"At this moment there is a debate over funding border security and the wall, also called so that I give them a little bit of an out 'steel slats,'" Trump said Thursday after the White House announced his opposition to a stopgap measure to keep the government open.
"We don't use the word 'wall' necessarily, but it has to be something special to do the job." The Senate has been called back into session to consider a package approved by House Republicans late Thursday, which includes the $5.7 billion Trump wants for the border with Mexico.
Senators had passed their own bipartisan bill earlier in the week to keep the government open. It offered $1.3 billion for border security, but no money for "the wall." Both bills would extend government funding through 8 February.
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)
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