Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress from states that border the southern U.S. appear unified against President Donald Trump's spending request to build a wall, according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal.
Trump has asked Congress to appropriate $1.4 billion as part of a spending bill which must be passed by April 28 to avoid a government shutdown.
The Wall Street Journal survey, published Friday, said that most lawmakers from the region were either opposed or noncommittal, and many said they had unanswered questions. But, not one lawmaker of either party representing border states offered support of the spending plan.
Senior congressional Republicans have indicated for some time they would prefer spending for the wall be left out of the budget, fearing they wouldn't have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass.
However, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly remained steadfast that construction will begin this summer, pledging on Thursday to Fox News, "We're going to get at it as quick as we can."
And, Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview, "You’re always going to have constituencies within both parties that have local issues — we get that."
Democrats are solidly against both the concept and the price tag for building a new wall. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.. reminded that Trump, when running for president, said any wall constructed would be paid for by Mexico.
"The White House's demands that American taxpayers now foot the bill for a multi-billion dollar boondoggle are intensely opposed by Democrats and many Republicans," Pelosi's spokesman said.
Enthusiasm for funding the wall has been underwhelming since Trump first made the request in March. The president's proposal would commit $1.4 billion in spending for the current fiscal year and $2.6 billion for next year. Officials said the current year's spending would allow for 48 miles of new border and levee walls, 14 miles of replacement fencing, technology improvements and road construction.
Some lawmakers complain that funds to secure the southern U.S. border could be better spent on technology improvements that could prove more effective and cost less.
Opposition from border-state members of Congress is significant because of their heightened knowledge on the issue. Rep. Martha McSally, R.-Ariz., chairs the Homeland Security border security subcommittee and said walls do little to repel criminals from entering the U.S.
"They will go over, through or under physical barriers, sometimes pretty quickly," she said.
In the Senate, none of the four Republicans representing border states supported the concept as Trump has presented it.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has complained that the proposal focused too narrowly on the wall, and said he is currently working on legislation that would be more comprehensive on border security.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., questioned the spending request and Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and John McCain, R-Ariz., declined to comment on the issue.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., joined a lawsuit to prevent the project from moving forward, citing environmental concerns.
"The idea of a wall sounds good as campaign rhetoric, but the campaign is over and we need to offer the American people real solutions, not a false sense of security," Grijalva said.
Campaign rhetoric aside, bringing the issue to the forefront appears to already be having an effect, as the Department of Homeland Security reported the number of arrests in March along the southern border was at its lowest point since 2000.
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