House votes to add border wall funding to spending bill
© Getty Images

The House used a procedural maneuver on Thursday to add $1.6 billion to a government spending bill for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Trump.

Lawmakers won’t be faced with a standalone vote on approving the $1.6 billion in taxpayer funds to pay for the wall. Instead, House GOP leaders opted to tuck adoption of the $1.6 billion into a procedural vote that begins floor debate on the part of the legislation that provides funding for defense programs.

Avoiding a standalone vote on the wall funding prevented what could have been a tough vote for some GOP lawmakers. Trump had promised during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Five Republicans opposed the procedural vote: Reps. Will Hurd (Texas), Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP rep refutes Trump's account of Sanford attacks: 'People were disgusted' Trump claims Sanford remarks booed by lawmakers were well-received GOP congressman blasts Trump’s attack on Sanford as ‘classless’ MORE (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Steve Pearce (N.M.). 

The House is expected to pass the national security-focused spending package later on Thursday.

The $1.6 billion would be specifically allocated for physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and in San Diego, Calif. That includes 32 miles of new fencing and 28 miles of new levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley, in addition to 14 miles of secondary fencing in San Diego.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, said he was disappointed lawmakers were considering a scaled-back spending package instead of bills to fund all parts of the federal government.

The spending package on the floor this week only includes money for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Energy, legislative branch operations and the Defense Department, along with the wall.

“Despite my reservations about the process, I believe that each of these three projects included in this amendment are absolutely necessary for national security,” Carter said of the wall funding.

Not all Republicans are on board with making Trump’s vision of a border wall become reality.

Hurd's district includes more than 800 miles of the Mexican border, more than that of any other House member. He and the two other Republicans who represent border districts have long said that building a wall along the entire southwestern border would be impractical and ineffective.

President Trump won only one of the nine districts along the U.S.-Mexico border in last year's election. That district is represented by Pearce, who like Hurd opposed the procedural move on Thursday.

Hurd submitted an amendment to the spending package that would have prevented the use of funds to build any physical barriers along the border, including walls or fences, until the Department of Homeland Security submits a comprehensive border security strategy justifying the costs.

Despite opposing the idea of a wall entirely, three Texas Democrats who also represent parts of the border signed onto Hurd’s amendment: Reps. Vicente González, Henry Cuellar and Beto O’Rourke.

Hurd introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize technology-based solutions for border security and submit a comprehensive border strategy is submitted to Congress. Five other Republicans, including Pearce, and Cuellar, a border-district Democrat, have signed onto Hurd's bill.
 
"We can’t double down on a Third Century approach to solve 21st Century problems if we want a viable long-term solution,” Hurd said in a statement.

The House Rules Committee, which is controlled by the majority party leadership to determine how bills are considered on the floor, did not grant Hurd’s amendment a floor vote.

The Rules Committee also rejected several amendments from Democrats to prohibit any use of funds to build the border wall.