First-term Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) was elected in November after campaigning on a pro-President Donald Trump “build the wall” message. But on Wednesday, she made the bizarre claim that the ongoing fight in Congress to avert a second Trump shutdown is not about a new wall but actually about funding for existing fencing.
The centerpiece of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was a promise that he would build a wall along the entire border between the United States and Mexico and that the project would be totally funded by Mexico. After Mexico made clear that this was a non-starter, the president shut down much of the government for five weeks in an attempt to force Congress to appropriate $5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to begin construction on his wall.
After the public blamed Trump and congressional Republicans for the shutdown, they caved last week and agreed to a three-week temporary spending bill. Trump has already suggested he might shut down the government again if Congress doesn’t give him the wall money, and Blackburn seemed to support that threat in a Fox & Friends interview on Wednesday.
“My hope is you do not see another government shutdown. Nobody wants the government shut down. Nobody wants it shut down. What we want is for the Democrats to negotiate and come to a resolution on this,” she said.
Then things got confusing.
“Since ’92, you’ve had money for 700 miles of border barrier, border fencing. And what we’re saying is it should still be in the budget. What the Democrats are doing is trying to take that out of the budget. That is what this debate is about on border security. The money has been there for every president since ’92,” she claimed. “They have built 700 miles of border barrier. And what [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and the Democrats are saying is ‘let’s take that out of the appropriations process. Let’s not put that money in there.'”
Blackburn seems to be referring to 700 miles of fencing along some parts of the southern border that stemmed from the Secure Fence Act of 2006. But it is unclear why Congress would need to appropriate 2019 funds to build the 700 miles of fencing that has already been built. Further, congressional Democrats have opposed new funding for a new border wall but have not moved to eliminate existing border security funds or to take down the existing barriers.
Blackburn’s 2018 campaign website included “Cut Government Spending” on her issue priorities list, claiming that she is a “committed fiscal conservative and has the track record to prove it, even in tough circumstances.”