Congressional RollCall reports here. " The Omnibus Appropriation Package provides an annualized total of $1.07 trillion in base spending for fiscal 2017, or $1.16 trillion including Overseas Contingency Operations funding. RollCall further reported that the bi-partisan agreement between Dems and the GOP traded the Trump administration's initiative to build a wall across the southern border funding for an additional $1.5 billion appropriation for border security for technology and repairing the current border wall and other border security infrastructure. The Dems claimed a major victory. Either the Dems are ignorant of how budget language works or are being disingenuous? Let's look at the Appropriations bill and its language, as it applies to border security and a border wall. [Download 2017 Appropriations Law].
The House Appropriations Committee reported that the bill includes full Appropriations legislation and funding for the remaining 11 annual Appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year September 30, 2017. This level meets the base discretionary spending caps provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and provides additional funding for national defense, border security, and other emergency needs. The last part of that sentence refers that the GOP won significant Democratic concessions by allowing a $25 billion increase in national defense funding over current levels and the $1.5 billion additional border security funding when the previous agreement had been to only increase such funding equally between "guns and butter" programs and only then when not further increasing the annual deficit. Mind you that GOP budget hawks are not as impressed with such "won" concessions, preferring to live by the sequester budget caps as previously bi-partisan agreed.
Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen issued the following statement on the legislation: “This bill reflects shared values that will help make our nation stronger, safer, and more resilient. ... This bill makes the smart decisions to invest funding where it is needed most – rebuilding our military, securing our borders, and bolstering economic growth.” Shared values? The "shared" values of the two parties are that the spoils go to the winner which in Congressional Appropriations terms generally means a 60-40 split in favor of the majority party with the members of the Appropriations Committee receiving first fruits. The GOP won in terms of a majority of seats in both chambers and the Presidency this past election, and thus won 60% of the spoils. I suspect that a deep dive into all 1,600+ pages will find that the respective chair (majority party) and ranking member (minority party) of each chamber (Senate and House) has included several constituent pet projects while the other members of both committees have included at least one. The majority and minority leaders of both chambers have their projects. Members that have raised a lot of party political donations are next in line followed by 'in-danger' members. The party leadership and the Appropriations committee members always include a couple projects. And the President is allocated a portion of the dollars. A budget is not passed without the President receiving some of the spoils as well. It's only spin to claim the President and Vice-President were kept away from the piggy bank. That's not politically reality. With that as my premise, let's look at what Trump won?
The Appropriations bill contains $11.4 billion in discretionary appropriations for U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP). These resources are to be used to put "boots on the ground", improve technology, and "stem the flow of illegal activities" in and out of the country. In addition, to meet emerging needs at the border, the legislation provides $772 million in funding as requested by President Trump in his March 2017 budget amendment for improvements to and maintenance of existing infrastructure, technology investments, and increased Border Patrol agent hiring. The bill provides $6.4 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) including $617 million for additional detention beds and transportation and removal costs. The House Appropriations Committee stated that this additional amount will end the practice of “catch and release.” That's a Trump promise so notch one for the President.
But more relevant, what do the committee chair's words mean: 'as requested by President Trump' and 'for improvements to..' and 'existing infrastructure'? I read 'start to build the wall'. Based on the authorization allowed by this appropriation language, Trump can start to build part, albeit a small part, of his border wall with this money by simply adding 'improvements' onto the current wall. I suspect that the committee members and their staff understood, and agreed, the appropriation language in the context of Trump obtaining talking points and a photo-op for a slab of the wall. In a Machiavellian sense, I think that the party leaderships agreed to allow the president his pet project because both sides think it will advance their respective fundraising and GOTV agenda. Perhaps I am wrong - either the language does not allow the president to improve the border infrastructure wall/fence or the lack of clarity is simply a result of expediency and oversight in the process. What leads me to think that this was an intentional detente between the Dems and GOP? Trump could have exercised his veto with no love lost. By giving him funding for a showcase "model wall", funding for a fleet of 11,290 CBP and ICE police vehicles for border enforcement (tick one up for his auto worker supporters from Michigan), and over six hundred million new detention dollars, the Dems and the GOP bought their elected leaders and chamber members $1 trillion of other expenditure (and constituent handouts) for their respective voting and donor bases.
Or it may be that both sides think that the wall is so unrealistic from a topology and a budgetary perspective that the president will only take a photo-op with a slab of new wall construction but then underfund it like the past two administrations. After 15 years, the current border wall (much more of a fence than a wall in most areas) covers a very short stretch of the border.
Trump has less than five months and perhaps $200 million of the $772 million to spend on repairs of the current infrastructure because he will need the other $572 million for the new hires and the drone and laser technology he has also promised. According to FAIR-US, as of May 2015, on the 2,000 mile border DHS had built a wall covering approximately 15% of which 1.5% had secondary fencing. See the National Geographic pictures of what the current variations of the "wall" actually look like.
- 353 miles of Primary Pedestrian Fencing.
- 36 miles of Secondary Fencing.
- 14 miles of Tertiary Pedestrian Fencing.
- 300 miles of Vehicle Fencing.
But Trump does not even need $200 million to build a 'showcase mile' slab of wall as an improvement or repair of a current slab of wall. A new 6-lane interstate mile costs approximately $10 million, so even if double that cost for a mile of wall, $200 million will cover the mile and still allow new air conditioning units to be purchased for CBP offices in the 120F degree desert heat. This appropriation bill allows, before the 2018 elections, the president to undertake his media spin with requisite photo-ops, write his name in the wet cement, and raise campaign contributions.
Final Enacted Appropriation Highlights –
Funding Levels –The legislation provides a total of $1.163 trillion in base and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) / Global War on Terror (GWOT) funding for the operations of the federal government. Base discretionary funding alone in the bill meets the caps in current law, providing $1.07 trillion.
The bill includes $93.5 billion in total OCO/GWOT funding to provide needed resources and training for our troops in the field, to combat the threat of ISIL and other enemies around the world, to support U.S. allies, and to fund diplomatic and humanitarian missions.
The bill also includes $8.2 billion in emergency and disaster funding for fiscal year 2017 for needs resulting from fires, floods, and other extreme weather events.
Timing – The funding included in the bill will extend to the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2017.
Policy Items – The legislation includes several policy items to help rein in bureaucratic and regulatory overreach, to protect the rights of Americans, and to encourage economic growth and job creation. For details of these items, please see the summaries below.
Omnibus Summaries – For detailed summaries of the 11 Appropriations bills within the Omnibus, including funding levels and policy items, please visit the following:
Energy and Water
Interior and Environment
Labor/Health and Human Services/Education
Transportation/Housing and Urban Development
For the full text of the bill and accompanying reports, please visit: www.rules.house.gov.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) released the following statement on House passage of government funding legislation:
“After years of tying military spending levels to domestic spending levels, we have finally broken free of this false restraint. Our military will get the resources it needs to defend our nation and our interests in an increasingly unsafe world. This bill also provides increased resources to further secure our southern border. Already, illegal border crossings are at a 17-year low. That coupled with measures in this bill will bring us closer to a more secure border.
“This bill also helps fund necessary improvements to our infrastructure. The historically wet winter out west is maxing out our archaic water storage system that hasn’t been updated in decades. So we allocated $67 million to increase water storage to continue to help ensure everyone can get the water they need.”
May 4, 2017 in Economics | Permalink
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