Cracks in the wall

Will we or won’t we get a wall?
As a candidate, President Donald Trump repeatedly promised to build a “big, beautiful wall” on the border with Mexico and pledged that it would be paid for by Mexico. As the commander-in-chief, he has repeated that promise — even if he has waffled a bit on exactly how the cost of the wall will be financed. But although he has Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, GOP legislators are not falling fully in line behind Trump’s vision.

Last week, CNN reported on a “wall of resistance” from the GOP. The price tag of a wall across the southern U.S. border, estimated from $12 billion to $15 billion, is apparently giving Republicans sticker shock. Many members of the party’s caucus in the Senate told the network that they would not support the wall unless the cost was offset by spending cuts elsewhere. “If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Others were skeptical of whether the country would get its $12 billion-plus value for its investment in the wall. “I don’t think we’re just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier because people can come under, around it and through it,” said Sen. John Cornyn of the border state of Texas. Yet others, like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another border state, noted that the expense of a wall would only be part of any comprehensive security effort, since “if you only build a wall, only a ‘wall,’ without using technology, individuals, drones, observations, etc., you’re not going to secure the border.”

Still others don’t believe that Mexico will or should pay for the wall. “I don’t count on Mexico to pay for our national security,” said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. “It’s the responsibility of every nation to take care of their own security.”

Fiscally conservative members of the GOP are properly raising real-world concerns about the projected cost of building a border wall. Together with the Democratic minority, which has voiced strong opposition to the proposed wall, the Trump administration faces a steep climb to get congressional approval for the plan. And that’s how it should be. The system of checks and balances built into our democratic government prevent any one branch from improperly exerting its power and ruling by fiat. Some degree of consensus needs to be reached.

Which is to say that if and when we do get a wall, we anticipate that it will have been properly studied, weighed and financed, instead of being simply willed into existence by a president committed to deliver on his campaign promises.

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