Radio host Hugh Hewitt pressed Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the lead GOP negotiator on a bipartisan border security bill that was released on Sunday, about the bill’s lack of provisions mandating the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
The bipartisan bill, titled the “Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024,” would appropriate $118 billion in total for a variety of matters, including aid to Ukraine during its war against Russia and Israel during its conflict with Hamas, as well as border security, though it does not mandate the construction of a border wall. Lankford, during an appearance on Hewitt’s show, defended the bill’s text by claiming that it ensures a wall construction is “protected for the next administration,” enabling a future Republican administration to utilize the authority to construct it.
“Why doesn’t it start now? Why doesn’t it build the whole thing? And why isn’t it done by November, Senator?” Hewitt asked Lankford. “[D]id you ask for the wall to be built now in its complete form as President Trump attempted to get it done during his first term?”
Lankford responded by asserting that wall construction was not mandated, though authority was granted, to enable Democrats and Republicans to make arguments to voters about the wall during the 2024 presidential election. “Biden has been fighting against building the wall over and over again on this, so this does compel that that money can only be used for that, and has to be used for that. But it blocks off the funding to say let’s have the election on it. And if Trump wins the election in November, then he’ll have a pot of money sitting there ready to do that wall construction on it,” Lankford said.
Hewitt was unconvinced. “But you could have written a law that said within 6 months, you will build this wall. And the United States is capable of doing that, and you didn’t. I’m just wondering did you ever ask for that[?]” he pressed Lankford.
Lankford responded that mandating construction of the wall during the remainder of the Biden administration would not be possible, due to the time involved in the process. “That’s actually not physically possible to be able to actually do in construction to be able to get that up,” he said.
“We’ve got 2,000 miles total of border. We’ve got about 750 miles actually of construction. So if you’re actually talking about completing the last 1,250 miles in the next 6 months, no we didn’t actually do that,” Lankford noted, adding that “[the Biden administration’s] going to try to find ways around it and misuse those dollars.”
The bill’s text provides that “none of the funds allocated for pedestrian physical barriers pursuant to this section may be made available for any purpose other than the construction of steel bollard pedestrian barrier built at least 18 to 30 feet in effective height and augmented with anti-climb and anti-dig features.” Lankford argued that this specificity ensures that the wall may be built.
“[W]e set aside the plan, how it needs to be done, the timing to make sure the money couldn’t be wasted for things other than the steel bollards, the specific design with the anti-climb pieces that are on it,” he said. “[W]e actually made sure that we’re going to get this done.”
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