Eager to help President Trump complete the 1,954-mile wall on the southern border, lawmakers are considering a financing plan that would tax the money that immigrants send home to Mexico and tap State Department foreign aid to the country.
House and Senate Republicans told the Washington Examiner that raiding those two caches of money would offset costs to taxpayers, a key demand of fiscal conservatives, and live up to Trump's promise to make Mexico pay for the wall.
In focus, according to the lawmakers, is the $23 billion that Mexicans who are legally and illegally in the United States send home every year and the $209 million the government gives Mexico in aid, including money for police, military, food and even Peace Corps programs.
Everything from a 10 percent tax on those cash payments to a one-year grab of it has been proposed.
"A tax on [cash] transmittals could pay that thing off in a reasonable period of time. I would imagine that foreign aid could supplement that payoff," said Rep. Andy Biggs, a newly elected House member who has been on the immigration front lines for years in Arizona. "Walls do work. You pay for the wall with transmittal payments," he said.
Foreign aid is also a ripe target, though Biggs said the focus would be on cash the Treasury sends to Mexico because it is easier to get than grants that filter through organizations such as the United Nations.
The State Department said Mexico receives $209 million a year in U.S. aid, or about 37 cents per Mexican.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the committee overseeing the wall, also is considering those targets to fund the wall.
Out of the mix for now is a tax on goods coming into the United States from Mexico. U.S. officials said that it would spark a trade war, which Mexican officials seem to want.
Biggs decried the "bellicosity" from top Mexican officials promising to retaliate if the U.S. raises the trade bar.
"Nobody is saying anything about trade. I think people want to keep trade. It's important to keep trade. All we're saying is, 'Quit promising people in the country illegally that they can vote, have full citizenship rights in America and Mexico.' Let's have normalized relations. But we can't have normalized relations because you don't recognize the sanctity of our borders like you recognize the sanctity of your own southern border," Biggs said.
Poll shift: Government doesn't do enough
Most voters believe the federal government is a huge pain, but now they want Washington to do more to deal with the challenges facing the nation, a bow to Trump's promise to make America great again.
While past polling has shown majorities believing that government fails because it tries to do too much, a new survey for the 55-year-old GOP Ripon Society found voters looking for action.
"In a swing from the past, where these voters who thought government was part of the problem because it was doing too much, most voters ... think that the federal government is doing not enough — 66 percent — to solve the problems facing the country," said Republican pollsters Ed Goeas and Brian Nienaber.
"Voters are very much focused on results — real economic results — that will impact their daily lives," said the pollsters in a survey the moderate polling group provided to the Washington Examiner.
They credited the shift to Trump's election.
"It is a strong majority of those voters who say the federal government is part of the problem, who also say that they are either 'excited' or 'hopeful' about the election of Donald Trump as president and maintaining majorities in the House and Senate," the polling analysis said.
"Don't take this to mean that people want more government or bigger government. They want effective government. That is very deeply held with those voters. They're not going to change overnight just because Trump says he's going to make America great again. But it is an opportunity to play to those voters and bring them in," Goeas said.
Gorsuch could be on Supreme Court by Easter
The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a bright spot in the chaotic first weeks of the new Trump administration, is going so well that the federal appeals judge from Colorado could be on the high court before Easter.
Senate insiders said that Gorsuch has moved swiftly to build relations in the chamber, meeting daily with up to six senators. By the time his Judiciary Committee hearings begin March 20, he may have met with more than 60 of the 100 senators, including many Democrats who are expected to vote against his nomination.
"It all depends on how he does at the hearings, and that shouldn't be a problem," said one Gorsuch associate.
The plan is then for the nomination to be submitted to the full Senate in early April, and it appears likely that he will surpass the needed 60 votes to avoid a parliamentary maneuver to get him to the court. Insiders said the goal is a vote before the Easter recess which begins on April 7, two days before Palm Sunday.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org