President Trump has gone back and forth in recent weeks, first threatening to shut down the government if he didn’t get $5 billion in funding for his border wall, and then backing off Tuesday after realizing opposition to the proposal was insurmountable.
The White House has since insisted that, despite the shift, the president remains intent on building the wall and plans to find funding elsewhere.
Trump still faces pushback from both Democrats who have pledged to kill any attempts to fund the project and from those in his own party who’ve expressed skepticism at its effectiveness in the past. Among those Republicans are Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), though the latter has since shifted her stance to align more closely with Trump. Following the White House’s announcement, their resistance and reticence from other GOP members could prove pivotal.
Hurd has been a rare Republican voice during the border security fight, previously saying he disagreed with the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border and arguing a wall on the southern border would be expensive and ineffective.
“I’m just even more convinced that it would be better spent with some of these existing programs, and we’d see a quicker decrease in drugs and illegal immigration,” Hurd said of funding the border wall earlier this year.
He added, “I’ve been pretty clear that separating kids from their parents is a terrible idea, so we should not be going back to that. And we shouldn’t be looking at reducing foreign aid into Central America because many of these programs that we’re doing can be scaled and are addressing the root causes of illegal immigration.”
Pearce, who lost his seat on Election Day and has said he plans to run for state party chairman in New Mexico, has advocated for a “virtual wall.”
“I’ve said all along that while I support the president’s view of having strong national security we can accomplish this with a virtual wall in many areas,” he told local media recently, though what precisely “a virtual wall” means remains unclear. “I look for this issue to come to a crossroads in the coming days, and it could come to another government shutdown.”
By contrast, McSally, who previously expressed reservations about the wall and who was recently appointed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s vacant seat, has pivoted to become a Trump darling.
In February 2017, McSally told attendees at a town hall that she “wasn’t sold on” the idea of a border wall as Trump had proposed it, according to CNN. “Not a continuous, 2,000-mile border wall, no,” she said.
In April that year, The Wall Street Journal reported McSally was concerned about the wall’s effectiveness, as well as it’s massive cost. In a letter co-signed by Hurd, she wrote that “an expenditure this large, and submitted with limited details, deserves additional scrutiny” to ensure funds were being used wisely.
During her recent failed Senate race, however, the congresswoman tacked to the right.
“It has been an honor to be leading in the House to make sure we build the wall,” she said at a campaign rally with the president in October. McSally got so into the idea of the wall that she even advocated for building one between Arizona and California on the campaign trail.
“As we look in Arizona, we often look into the dangers of the southern border,” McSally said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “But if these dangerous policies continue out of California, we might need to build a wall between California and Arizona as well.”
Some of McSally’s future Senate colleagues have expressed resistance to a border wall, including the Senate’s number two Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Although he has not openly opposed the idea of a wall along the U.S. southern border, Cornyn’s support for the idea has been lackluster at best.
“Our border is very different in different places,” Cornyn said last year, pointing to existing fencing in San Diego as effective in separating urban areas. “But as you know, many places in Texas are virtually inaccessible.”
On Wednesday last week, following a disastrous meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders during which the president said he would happily take credit for any shutdown if Congress did not agree to his $5 billion request, Cornyn appeared flummoxed by the move.
“I don’t understand the strategy, but maybe he’s figured it out and he’ll tell us in due course,” Cornyn told The Washington Post. “But I don’t understand it.”