Dive Brief:

  • In a $1.6 trillion discretionary funding request sent to the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations on Friday, President Joe Biden’s administration did not ask for border wall construction funds and proposed that unobligated, prior-year funding set aside for wall construction be canceled. The president will submit his full budget request for 2022 in the coming months.
  • Even though the administration did not request money for border wall construction, the funding it proposed does include $1.2 billion for other types of border infrastructure like modernization of land ports of entry and new border security technology.
  • The funding request seems to contradict media reports that the Biden administration might be planning to resume a program of wall construction. During the 2020 campaign, Biden said his administration would not “build another foot of wall,” but the administration has not yet announced how it will proceed with wall contracts in progress.

Dive Insight:

When fielding a question earlier this month about reports that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was considering filling “gaps” in the border wall, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing that federal agencies are continuing to review border wall contracts and will submit a plan to the president soon.

“It is paused,” she said. “There is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.”

Senate Republicans have pushed back against the Biden administration’s halt to border wall construction and have asked the  U.S. Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro for a legal opinion as to whether the move violated the Impoundment Control Act. At the core of their complaint is that the act prohibits the president from withholding funds obligated by Congress.

Although former President Donald Trump diverted money from the Defense Department for wall construction under a national emergency declaration, Congress also appropriated an average of $1.4 billion per year for wall repair, replacement and construction from 2018 through 2021.

The discretionary funding request also included other construction-related items such as:

  • $11.2 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes $3.6 billion for water infrastructure improvements.
  • $6.8 billion for the U..S. Army Corp of Engineers civil works program.
  • $2 billion for federal building construction.
  • $10.2 billion to the National Science Foundation, which includes funding for the construction of research facilities.