By Jessica Glenza in New York
Trump forced to say that Mexico would be reimbursing US taxpayers after Republican officials indicated Congress would pay upfront costs.
Donald Trump was forced to say that Mexico would pay for his planned border wall “later” after Republican officials indicated Congress and US taxpayers would first foot the bill.
The president-elect responded after reports citing Republican officials said Congress might make funds available for the wall, saying this would just be for the “sake of speed”. He added in a tweet that the “dishonest media” had failed to report that “any money spent on building the Great Wall” would be reimbursed.
The plan for taxpayers to advance the cash could be seen as a broken promise by some of Trump’s most ardent supporters.
The wall, and promises to make Mexico pay, have repeatedly been criticized as unrealistic and damaging to relations.
“Build the wall” was not only a key campaign promise from the Republican, but also a popular chant at his rallies. “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” Trump asked crowds during his campaign, who would reply: “Mexico!”
The potential effectiveness of the wall is also questionable, as many smuggling routes are underground. Though Trump promised a reinforced concrete structure during his campaign, those promises have evolved. Following his election, Trump said he might be open to fencing along some parts of the wall. Trump has also said a “big, beautiful door” would be constructed in the wall for legal migrants.
Exactly how to force Mexico to pay for the wall has also eluded the president-elect. Mexican opposition to paying for the wall has been stalwart. During his campaign, Trump suggested he would cut off transfers of money to Mexican families from migrants in the US, who send more than $24bn in remittances home each year.
The idea to ask Mexico to pay Americans back for the wall is not new. Trump first floated the idea in October, according to CNN. But Republicans provided new details of the plan on Thursday.
Republican congressman Luke Messer of Indiana told reporters that Trump could fund a 2006 border security law as part of a large spending bill to avoid Democratic opposition. The Secure Fence Act, signed by former president George W Bush, called for 850 miles of fencing to be built along the US-Mexico border.
The reports about Congress paying pointed at using the appropriations bill process. Funding the wall through a large appropriations bill could force Democrats to choose between continuing to pay for government operations or stopping the wall. A failure to fund government operations could lead to a shutdown. In the past, such shutdowns have been deeply unpopular with the public.
Though Trump estimated the cost of the wall at about $8bn, previous government estimates of the cost of fencing off the border have varied widely. In one 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated the 25-year cost of each mile of border fence to be up to $70m.
Also on Friday, Trump taunted Arnold Schwarzenegger on Twitter for his ratings in a spin-off of Trump’s old reality television show, Celebrity Apprentice. In an early Friday tweet, Trump referred to himself as a “ratings machine” and said Schwarzenegger – who did not support his run for president – “got ‘swamped’” by comparison.