The House of Representatives on Thursday approved what could become the first funding for a wall along the Mexico border.
It was part of a broader military spending bill, and Arizona’s congressional delegation split along party lines on whether to include the small down payment in the larger measure.
A move to deny a separate vote on the $1.6 billion wall provision passed in the House of Representatives 230-196, with help from all five of Arizona’s Republican members.
All four of the state’s Democrats opposed that provision. Later, two of those Democrats voted to pass the overall spending bill with $788 billion for the military, veterans programs and other matters — along with the money for the wall.
Legislation’s future is uncertain
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democrats have more power to derail measures they don’t like. Even so, it likely gives Republicans a sense of legislative momentum as they prepare to head into the August recess after months of fitful efforts to pass health-care and tax reforms.
Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall has complicated efforts for the House and Senate to pass even routine spending measures this year.
By stuffing funds for the wall in a defense spending bill, Republicans are trying to secure money for the beginning of Trump’s signature campaign promise. But Democratic opposition has raised concerns for some about a government shutdown over the issue.
Dems support final bill, but not wall funds
The partisan battle lines over the wall have been clear for months, though Democratic U.S. Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Kyrsten Sinema voted for the larger funding measure that included wall spending Thursday.
Both complained about the process, but they supported the final bill that would provide raises for military personnel and reforms at the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It is shameful that politicians would use backdoor, legislative gimmicks to include $1.6 billion in American tax dollars for a border wall in a bipartisan bill that provides crucial resources for our troops and our veterans,” O’Halleran said. “If anything, members of Congress should have an up-or-down vote on whether we should fund a costly, ineffective border wall.”
Sinema praised the military aspects of the bill and called the border wall a waste.
“It gives our troops a 2.4 percent pay raise; funds programs like the A-10, Apache, and F-35 that support good Arizona jobs; and funds the Veterans Health Administration so our veterans can receive the care they deserve,” she said.
“I do not support every provision in this bill and voted twice to remove funding for the border wall. The wall is a waste of taxpayer money that will not ever be built, and won’t keep us safe.”
Biggs wants border wall – and more
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said farmers, ranchers and Border Patrol agents he talks to want a wall. Fencing, where it exists, has cut down the number of illegal entries, but a more comprehensive barrier is needed, he said.
A border wall is vital to national security, but we should not stop there,” Biggs said after the vote. “We must pave roads along the border for our agents to easily patrol, increase the number of Border Patrol agents in our service, and improve technology at the border. Only then will we have a secure border.U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., issued a statement praising the bill for what it did for defense, veterans and water, she but didn’t mention the border wall project.
The money would pay for 14 miles of new wall in San Diego (replacing existing fencing), 28 miles of levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley and 32 miles of bollard fencing in the Rio Grande Valley.