Dogged by the question of why border wall funding was not prioritized during the two years the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, President Donald Trump has an answer: It’s Paul Ryan’s fault.
In a Wednesday interview, Trump accused the former House speaker of being a promise-breaker who misled him into standing down after border wall funding was struck from the 2018 omnibus spending bill.
“I was going to veto the omnibus bill and Paul told me in the strongest of language, ‘Please don’t do that. We’ll get you the wall.’ And I said, ‘I hope you mean that, because I don’t like this bill,'” Trump said.
But the president said that instead of fighting for the wall, Ryan went “lame duck” after he announced he would not run for re-election.
Thus, it was not until last December that the House finally pass legislation to fund the wall, at which point it was dead on arrival because the Senate had already passed its version of the budget, which omitted wall funding.
“I was very disappointed in Paul because the wall was so desperately needed,” Trump said.
Still, the president stopped short of calling Ryan deliberately deceitful.
“I don’t want to say he lied,” Trump said. “I think he probably meant it at the time, I guess. I hope.”
Trump also praised the omnibus spending bill on Wednesday for providing a dramatic increase in military spending and admitted that even without Ryan’s promise, he might have signed the bill anyway, “because it was so much more money than anyone ever thought possible for the military and equal to the wall, and maybe even greater than the wall was my promise to refurbish the military.”
History Repeats Itself
Trump’s criticism of the former House speaker comes as the president is facing backlash from many supporters for signing another spending bill without wall funding — and this time, Ryan is not around to take the blame.
But Trump insists the temporary spending bill is not a capitulation, but rather, a means to temporarily end the government shutdown while giving him more time to negotiate a new budget and put pressure on House Democrats.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ongoing refusal to negotiate any deal that includes a wall may seem to doom Trump’s eleventh-hour push for border security, but there are signs that Trump’s persistence may be having an effect among the Democrat rank and file — and that the outcome may boil down to semantics.
One House Democrat, South Carolina Sen. Jim Clyburn, is leading an effort to devise a compromise bill that would include a “smart wall,” which would combine various security such as drones and scanners “to create a technological barrier too high to climb over, too wide to go around, and too deep to borrow under.”
As Democrats move forward without Pelosi, and as voices on the left push back against her claim that a border wall is “immoral,” the outcome of the budget standoff remains uncertain, but one thing is for sure: President Trump isn’t backing down.