According to GOP sources in Congress, $1.375 billion is expected to be allocated to 2021 border wall funding as part of the $1.4 trillion year-end omnibus spending bill even though it looks like President Donald Trump will be out of office for much of that year.
It is expected that Congress will pass the bill, along with a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, on Monday after reaching the coronavirus stimulus deal late Sunday night.
Trump had been waffling about whether to sign the omnibus bill, and may look at the wall funding as a legacy-building opportunity to get more border wall built even after he is out of office–a signal to Joe Biden that changes he has made could stick around long after he’s gone from the Oval Office.
The funding would be the same as last year’s compromise, which resulted after a lengthy government shutdown that ended in December. It is less than the $2 billion requested by Trump for fiscal 2021, but it is still a way to get some of his agenda implemented after leaving office.
What can Biden do?
It is unclear how high a priority stopping construction on the border wall will be for Biden. In August, he told a group of Hispanic voters that “there will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration.”
But federal law requires that money be spent as allocated, so is there really anything Biden can do about further border wall construction?
Given that Biden seemed fine with overlooking any number of election laws in order to be elected, there probably won’t be much to stop him from ignoring laws governing budgets and spending if it will allow him to get what he wants, which is apparently an open border with Mexico and tens of thousands of immigrants streaming across that border illegally each month.
According to the Arizona Republic, the first thing Biden can do after taking office is to rescind the Trump National Emergency declaration that has allowed him to siphon nearly $10 billion from Pentagon funding and direct it to wall construction. That declaration is like an executive order, so Biden has unilateral control over reversing it.
Biden has also said he would prioritize spending on ports of entry rather than barriers. This is not necessarily a bad thing if he puts more tools in place there to catch drug smuggling and other crimes, which experts say are more prevalent at legal points of entry.
The Republic also pointed out that government contracts have loopholes allowing them to be canceled for any reason, so Biden could legally take action to cancel government contracts as long as he uses the allocated funds in a way that is consistent with their designation.
Biden has said he would withdraw from eminent domain lawsuits that are in the process of seizing the land needed to continue building the wall, which would further halt its progress.
Some open border advocates are going even further, pushing Biden to consider removing some sections of the wall built by Trump. It is unclear whether Biden would need congressional approval to undertake such an action, however.