FACT CHECK: Would Trump’s Border Wall Cost ‘1/10th Of 1 Percent Of The Federal Budget’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed on “Face the Nation” Sunday that the money requested by President Donald Trump to fund a border wall is equal to “1/10th of 1 percent of the federal budget.”

Verdict: True

The $5.7 billion requested for Trump’s border wall amounts to 0.13 percent of the $4.5 trillion in projected federal outlays for fiscal year 2019. It equals 0.42 percent of projected discretionary spending.

Fact Check:

McCarthy made the claim while discussing the partial government shutdown with CBS host Margaret Brennan. “If we cannot do this together, what else can we not do in the future? This is not that big of a problem,” said McCarthy.

The government has been shut down since Dec. 22 after Democrats rejected the White House’s demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. The Republican-led House passed a spending bill that included $5.7 billion for a wall, but the bill did not have the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

“@realDonaldTrump’s immoral, ineffective and expensive wall doesn’t make us safe,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted Dec. 21.

The $5.7 billion request equates to 0.13 percent of the $4.5 trillion in federal outlays for FY 2019 projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

Some experts point out that the money Trump requested for the wall would need to come from discretionary dollars, the money in the budget appropriated by Congress for non-mandatory programs. Discretionary spending makes up about 30 percent of the total federal budget.

“It’s a small percentage of total spending but a significantly larger percentage of discretionary dollars, which is what the money for the wall would be. McCarthy is being disingenuous and misleading,” Stanley Collender, a budget expert and author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget,” told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

If looking solely at discretionary dollars, the request would amount to 0.42 percent of the projected $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2019.

Trump’s requested $5.7 billion is considerably less money than previous estimates of how much the wall could cost. Back in 2017, Reuters reported that a Department of Homeland Security internal report put the cost as high as $21.6 billion, which would amount to 0.48 percent of projected federal spending and 1.6 percent of projected discretionary spending.

McCarthy continued by questioning the motives of Democratic opposition to the wall: “Democrats in the past have voted for fencing and for wall. Why, now, do they disagree?”

McCarthy may have been referring to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a bill that authorized the construction of hundreds of miles of fencing and barriers along the southern border, which several prominent Democrats, including Schumer, supported.

In December, Schumer argued that a border wall would not be “effective compared to other border security measures.”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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