Trump Now Says Taxpayers to Fund Border Wall; Mexico to ‘Reimburse’ Later
Appearing to have broken another of his most iconic campaign promises, President-elect Donald Trump said on Friday that American taxpayers will fund construction of his proposed wall along the nation’s southern border, and that the cost “will be paid back by Mexico later.”
Trump’s transition team has signaled to Congress that the incoming administration prefers to fund the border wall through the appropriations process as soon as April, CNN reports. While critics immediately accused the billionaire businessman of breaking one of his key campaign pledges, Trump shot back via Twitter by accusing the media of dishonesty and claiming his proposed move was born from a desire for expediency.
“The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Trump tweeted Friday. The president-elect stressed to reporters that Mexico would still pay for the wall in the end.
“We’re going to get reimbursed,” Trump told the New York Times. “But I don’t want to wait that long. But you start, and then you get reimbursed.” When pressed on how he would force Mexico to pay for the wall, Trump said he would likely find a way to link the project to any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he has called the “worst trade deal maybe signed anywhere.”
“It’s going to be part of everything,” Trump told the Times. “We are going to be making a much better deal. It’s a deal that never should have been signed.”
Congressional Republicans, who are loth to add to the nearly $20 trillion national debt, may find it difficult to follow through on a project that Trump says will cost as much as $12 billion to complete and others claim could cost more than twice as much.
The news that Trump would ask Congress to approve funding for the wall left many Democratic lawmakers fuming. “If President Trump asks Congress to approve taxpayer dollars to build a wall, which he has always said would not be paid for by US taxpayers, we will carefully review the request to determine if these taxpayer dollars would be better spent on building hospitals to care for our veterans, roads and bridges to help taxpayers get to work, and for NIH (National Institutes of Health) to find cures for cancer,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
However, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the Congressional liaison for the Trump transition team, expressed confidence that Trump would be able to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. “When you understand that Mexico’s economy is dependent upon US consumers, Donald Trump has all the cards he needs to play,” Collins told CNN. “On the trade negotiation side, I don’t think it’s that difficult for Donald Trump to convince Mexico that it’s in their best interest to reimburse us for building the wall.”
Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who famously scoffed, “I do declare, I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall” last February, re-entered the fray on Friday, tweeting, “Trump may ask whoever he wants, but still neither myself nor Mexico are going to pay for his racist monument. Another promise he can’t keep.”
Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has also said his country would not foot the bill for Trump’s wall. “Mexico will not pay for the wall,” he tweeted after meeting with Trump in Mexico City last summer. Trump incurred the wrath of many Mexicans with his anti-immigrant statements, including the opening remarks of his presidential candidacy when he said Mexican migrants are “rapists” and criminals. “And some, I assume, are good people,” he added.