Fight over wall itself is costly
W hen the partial shutdown of the federal government ends, someone needs to calculate precisely how much this fight over Donald Trump’s border wall ends up costing the American taxpayers. It’s going to be bundle.
Trump wants $5.7 billion to build a physical barrier between this country and Mexico as a way to deter illegal immigration. If Congress were to be crazy enough to authorize it, the construction, of course, will end up costing many billions more than that. Nobody really knows how much the final tab would be, but somewhere between $20 billion and $70 billion is the best current guess.
But even if Congress ultimately rejects Trump’s wall, which is highly likely the closer it gets to the Democratic takeover next month of the House, the tab is running in the meantime on how much is being wasted in the political fight.
An estimated 800,0000 federal workers, starting today, were either getting an extended Christmas holiday or were working without pay because the impasse over the wall was holding up approval of a short-term spending plan for other parts of the government. Congress, of course, has already made it clear that none of these employees — whether on the job or at home — will be out a penny once the shutdown ends. They will all receive back wages, although any who live paycheck to paycheck could get into a bind the longer the shutdown goes on.
Then, there was the added cost late last week of bringing senators back to Washington just a day after they left town, thinking their work was done, the shutdown would be avoided and the president and his ultraconservative allies in the House had accepted defeat for now. Senators, who rejected the House’s vote to give Trump the money, probably flew on the most expensive rates the airlines charge, given the short notice.
This was already going to be an expensive holiday for taxpayers, with the president giving federal workers two days off for Christmas. But added to that generosity is now an untold amount of totally unnecessary costs, not to mention the disruption or delay in government services the shutdown will produce.
It’s bound to put the public into a foul mood. The only question is who will pay the price politically — the president, Congress or both?