During an Oval Office interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday Donald Trump said he has a backup plan he may implement if Congress rejects his demand for $5 billion in funding for his border wall. Such a backup plan might include the ongoing deployment of U.S. Army troops at the border and more extensive use of razor wire to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the United States.
By talking about a “Plan B” Trump signalled that he might be changing his position on the border wall issue in advance of a December 7 funding deadline. The president had previously said that he would force a government shutdown if Congress didn’t approve $5 billion for the wall project.
Republicans are still in control of both the House and Senate until the new Congress convenes in January when Democrats take over House control.
But, as always, Trump put the blame on Democratic members of Congress for holding up the funding he needs to build the border wall. “We need Democrat votes to have a wall,” he said.
Then he added:
“Now, if we don’t get it, will I get it done another way? I might get it done another way. There are other potential ways that I can do it. You saw what we did with the military, just coming in with the barbed wire and the fencing, and various other things.”
Trump has deployed nearly 6,000 troops to the U.S. border with Mexico so far. They have been used to put in place over 12 miles of razor wire. The wire has been set up at key border crossing points, including at the San Ysidro crossing. That crossing is where U.S. border agents fired tear gas at migrants attempting to cross into the country from Tijuana.
Widely publicized photographs of mothers and children running away from tear gas have caused outrage throughout the country over the past three days. Trump said that videos and images of crowds of migrants rushing the border would sway public opinion against Democrats. Clearly he thinks that his approach is helping him politically. He told the Post:
“We desperately need a wall. I think that’s been shown better than ever in the last short period of two weeks — that we need a wall. I see the Democrats are going to want to do something, because they understand, too. Those pictures are very bad for the Democrats.”
The Department of Homeland Security and several other key federal agencies will shut down at the end of next week if Congress and the president do not act to pass a stopgap funding bill.
Since Trump’s presidency began almost all Democrats and a few Republicans have refused to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall. Since this was one of his primary campaign promises, the lack of progress on building a wall has, he believes, made him look bad.
Of course Trump promised during the campaign and at the beginning of his presidency that the border wall would be paid for by Mexico. When it became clear that this would not happen he stopped mentioning it, and started blaming Congress — especially Democrats — for not giving him the money he needs to fulfill his campaign promise.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that negotiations with Democrats and the Trump administration were continuing. “We’re trying to get the president the money he would like for the wall,” McConnell said.
Senate Democrats had agreed to a bipartisan $1.6 billion wall funding deal earlier this year. “We believe that is still the right way to go,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “If there’s any shutdown, it’s on President Trump’s back.”
There may still be a government shutdown if the president believes he has to continue to talk (and look) tough for his base of anti-immigrant supporters. However, because he said he is considering a backup plan if wall funding is not provided, it is more likely that he will go with Plan B and try to save face while continuing the improper use of military troops to provide border security.