Shortly after the 2016 elections, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talked to CBS’s “60 Minutes” about the Republican agenda and Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. The congressman’s answer at the time left some ambiguity about his plans.
“Yeah, I think conditions on the ground determine what you need in a particular area,” Ryan said at the time. The Speaker said “some areas” might require a wall, while other areas wouldn’t.
Seven months later, Ryan’s position has come into much sharper focus. The Speaker’s office published an online item on the issue this morning:
It’s time for The Wall. That’s why the House voted to fully fund the Trump administration’s request to build it.
The item featured a 30-second video, with on-screen text that read, “1,954 miles along America’s southern border. It’s time for The Wall. Let’s get it done.” (The slick clip featured video of Ryan at an airfield, on a helicopter, on a dock, and on a horse. It was a little tough to know whether the video was intended to promote the wall idea or to help make the Speaker look cool.)
So, with Ryan’s enthusiastic backing behind American taxpayers financing a giant border wall, is this likely to actually happen?
Not really. The House passed a big spending package last week that included $1.6 billion – not a dime of which would come from the Mexican treasury – for Trump’s proposed idea, but the bill now heads to the Senate, where there’s no realistic chance it can get 60 votes.
Ryan understands this. In fact, in case this isn’t obvious, the Speaker is trying to avoid blame for disappointing the Republican Party’s far-right base – just like with health care. It’s quite likely Ryan knows funding for a giant wall won’t be approved, but he wants to be able to say, “My chamber approved the money for this, so if you’re not happy, blame the Senate.”
Of course, the alternative is Ryan and Trump going to the mat over the issue, and threatening a government shutdown. I rather doubt they’ll follow through, but we’ll find out soon enough: policymakers are facing a spending deadline at the end of next month.
Update: The Speaker’s support for a border wall, at least in some form, has been ongoing since last year, and Ryan discussed his position on MSNBC in January. He also said in December he supports “whatever kind of device or barrier or policy to secure the border, that’s necessary to secure the border.”