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By Will Racke
Senate Democrats released a report on Tuesday that said President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall could end up costing three times more than earlier administration estimates.
The report claims that, at $33.6 million per mile, a complete barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border would cost nearly $70 billion to build, plus another $150 million in annual maintenance costs.
An internal Department of Homeland Security report from February gave the border wall a price tag of $21.6 billion, not including upkeep, Reuters reported.
Democrats used figures from the Trump administration’s budget requests to arrive at their total cost estimate for the wall. Trump’s 2017 supplemental budget request of $1.5 billion would fund 34 new miles of levee wall and border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, replace 14 miles of fencing near San Diego, and build another 14 miles of new border barriers in the same sector. The DHS budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018 will ask for $2.6 billion to construct 71 miles of new walls in the Rio Grande Valley, Tucson, and El Paso sectors.
The report extrapolated those numbers out to 1,827 miles of border wall, arriving at a final cost of $66.9 billion, or $200 for every American resident. That estimate might be inflated, though, because it is derived from budget requests that include non-wall expenditures including surveillance technology and detention centers.
The Democrats’ report comes as Congress tries to negotiate a funding bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2017. The government is currently operating on a continuing resolution that runs out April 28, and Democrats have promised to kill any spending measure that includes additional border wall funds
Republicans have also balked at appropriating more money for the wall in FY2017, with some GOP congressmen urging a more detailed review of exactly what the project will entail before they agree to commit additional funding. (RELATED: Texas Republicans Want To Put Brakes On Border Wall Construction)
“We’re not going to write a blank check,” Rep. Michael McCaul said at an appearance at Lone Star College last week. “And me working with the appropriators, we’re basically going to put conditions on it that better define how this thing is accomplished.”
Homeland Security officials say it will be difficult to come up with an accurate cost projection for the wall until a design has been chosen.
“I don’t know what it will be made of, I don’t know how high it will be, I don’t know if it’s going to have solar panels on each side and what the one side’s going to look like and how it’s going to be painted,” DHS Secretary John Kelly recently testified in the Senate. “I have no idea, so I can’t give you any type of an estimate.”
Customs and Border Protection plans to move forward with testing of wall prototypes from 20 companies that will be chosen after June 1. The models will be built on federally owned land near the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego. (RELATED: Border Wall Protoypes To Be Built Near San Diego Crossing)
DHS has set aside $20 million of “reprogrammed” funds to pay for the prototypes.