House approves $1.6 billion for US-Mexico border wall
Greater resistance is anticipated in the Senate, where the GOP holds just 52 of the 100 seats, and 60 votes are needed to pass the corresponding budget bill.
The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a budget bill for 2018 including $1.6 billion requested by the White House to begin construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
In a 235-192 vote, the lower house gave the green light to a $788 billion defense, veterans and energy budget for fiscal year 2018 - which runs from Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018.
"Every single dime the President requested to start building a wall on our southern border he's going to get. Most importantly, we're sending more to the VA to fix veterans' health care and reform outdated VA systems," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican.
GOP lawmakers included the wall budget proposal in the defense budget bill with the aim of forcing House Democrats to vote in favor of the wall, one of the key campaign promises made by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign but a measure that has been opposed head-on by Democrats.
Lawmakers could not agree on a comprehensive budget to finance the government as a whole and, therefore, they have been dividing the total funds into smaller bills for different departments.
Not included in the bill approved Thursday are funds for the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the wall project and financing for which will be considered in a separate bill.
In late May, the White House, via the Office of Management and Budget, asked Congress for $1.6 billion to build 51.5 kilometers (32 miles) of the wall along a sector of the Rio Grande River Valley in South Texas and another 45 km (28 mi.) along another stretch in the region.
Yet another 22.5 km (14 mi.) of wall is to be built in the San Diego sector to replace existing border fencing there.
These are some of the zones in which Border Patrol agents recently have been making an increased number of arrests.
It comes as no surprise that the bill passed the House because Republicans hold a 240-192 majority there over Democrats, and it does give Trump and his congressional supporters something of a mini-victory before lawmakers leave for their summer recess.
But greater resistance is anticipated in the Senate, where the GOP holds just 52 of the 100 seats, and 60 votes are needed to pass the corresponding budget bill.
It is considered to be virtually impossible that eight Senate Democrats will join with the GOP to pass the budget bill including the wall funds.
Congress needs to approve a government budget for fiscal 2018 before the end of September and, if lawmakers cannot do so, at least a partial government shutdown could result, as occurred in 2013.