Senator Ted Cruz has proposed a novel idea to fund President Donald Trump’s wall around the US-Mexico border: Use the $14 billion that US prosecutors are seeking from Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
“Today I introduced the EL CHAPO Act, which reserves billions in forfeited assets to pay for border security,” Mr Cruz tweeted. “Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe.”
A spokesperson for Mr Cruz’s office confirmed the bill was introduced to Congress.
Guzman was extradited from Mexico to the US in January, on charges of operating a multi-billion dollar, multi-national criminal drug enterprise. Prosecutors regularly seize the assets of drug dealers and traffickers, though it is unclear how they arrived at the $14 billion sum.
Mr Cruz’s bill comes as the White House struggles to secure funding for the border wall. Mr Trump has previously said construction of the wall would start “within months” of his inauguration.
Sources have confirmed to multiple outlets, however, that funding for the border wall will not be included in the congressional spending bill scheduled for a vote on Friday.
Democrats – and even some Republicans – have signalled that they will not pass a funding bill that contains provisions for border wall construction. A failure to pass the spending bill by Friday would result in a government-wide shutdown.
Even Mr Trump has seemed to distance himself from immediate for construction, saying on Tuesday he has “plenty of time” to get the wall built. Attendees at a White House reception for conservative media the night before said Mr Trump had suggested seeking funding for the wall in September, when Congress will likely need to pass another spending bill.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the White House is “still in discussions” with House and Senate leadership on border wall funding, but insisted that the president’s priorities had not changed.
“There’s a lot of things that have to happen … You have to start doing some planning and things,” Mr Spicer told reporters. “So we will have take some first steps now and continue seeking funding through [fiscal year 18] and other budgets.”
Mr Cruz’s proposal would not soothe opponents’ moral concerns about the wall, and likely would not pay for the entire project. (Experts put the cost at somewhere between $15 billion and $25 billion.) But it would fulfil two of Mr Trump’s most controversial campaign promises: building the wall, and making Mexico pay for it.
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