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Lame-duck House should forget wall

November 13, 2018

It may seem strange to point out that funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall will never pass the U.S. House of Representatives when it is controlled by Democrats in the new Congress. After all, money for the wall couldn’t even get through the Republican-controlled House over the last two years. Still, this bad idea keeps trying to avoid its slide into irrelevance, with some proponents even talking about sneaking a bill through the lame-duck session of the outgoing Congress. House members should not waste any more time on the wall and start focusing on more important challenges.

Local U.S. Reps. Randy Weber and Brian Babin can do their part to move forward by advising their GOP colleagues to forget about the wall and start looking ahead. If enough Republican House members do that, the few diehard supporters of the wall may finally realize that it’s not going to happen.

The plain fact here is that even many Republicans in Congress thought the border wall was unworkable from the start. Republican Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, appropriately called it the most expensive and least effective way to fight illegal immigration.

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo spoke for many is his party when he said, “We want security, cameras, sensors, personnel, the Border Patrol. … Nobody wants an open border. It’s just how we do it.”

The U.S.-Mexico border already has 700 miles of fencing of varying levels along its 1,954-mile length, and where it’s appropriate an actual barrier might make sense. But a physical wall from California to the Gulf of Mexico would be incredibly expensive and unnecessary, spanning vast stretches of isolated desert with virtually no illegal crossing. Even if the wall could be built, people could probably find a way to go over or under it. Large numbers of foreigners fly into the country now as tourists or students and overstay their visas; a wall 50 feet high wouldn’t stop them.

The new Congress should focus on common-sense border security. Republicans want that, and Democrats want some kind of deal for the “Dreamers,” children brought into this country by their parents years ago but still lacking legal status. Both sides should be able to work out an agreement that does something about both of these goals. They need to break through the bitter partisanship that has poisoned the mood in Washington and understand that one-sided lawmaking just won’t work any more.

If President Trump won’t accept this, Republican members of Congress should make it clear that they recognize the new political reality. That includes ignoring some wild talk about shutting down the government in the coming lame-duck session if the wall isn’t funded.

Those in the current Congress have some loose ends to tie down before their successors take over. Members should get it done and move on. The bluster of campaigning is over; the serious business of governing must begin.

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