The bill contains a poison pill. Trump should use Emergency funds to get around it.

The short version: The bill says that in certain areas in Texas, “You can’t spend this bill’s wall money before September 30, 2019, and you can’t spend it after September 30, 2019 either.” And you can’t spend it on September 30, 2019 unless the word “until” is interpreted in a certain way.

The details:

From the bill:

7 The following sums in this Act are appropriated, out
8 of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated,
9 for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.


SEC. 501. No part of any appropriation contained in
this Act shall remain available for obligation beyond the
current fiscal year unless expressly so provided herein.

Here are the specifics on the already-infamous “negotiate until September” part of the bill:

SEC. 232. (a) Prior to use of any funds made avail-
able by this Act for the construction of physical barriers
within the city limits of any city or census designated place
described in subsection ( c)
[SEE BELOW], the Department of Homeland
Security and the local elected officials of such a city or
census designated place shall confer and seek to reach mu-
tual agreement regarding the design and alignment of
physical barriers within that city or the census designated
place (as the case may be). Such consultations shall con-
tinue until September 30, 2019 ( or until agreement is
reached, if earlier) and may be extended beyond that date
by agreement of the parties, and no funds made available
in this Act shall be used for such construction while con-
sultations are continuing.

This literally runs down the clock until the funds can no longer be spent.

SEC. 505. Except as otherwise specifically provided
by law, not to exceed 50 percent of unobligated balances
remaining available at the end of fiscal year 2019, as re-
corded in the financial records at the time of a reprogram-
ming notification, but not later than June 30, 2020, from
appropriations for “Operations and Support” for fiscal
year 2019 in this Act shall remain available through Sep-
tember 30, 2020, in the account and for the purposes for
which the appropriations were provided…

So if I understand all this, it means that any amount of money that Trump would like to apply to wall in the specifically-mentioned areas in Texas (see below), cannot be spent, unless

(1) the “local elected officials” in those areas are amenable to an agreement before 9/30/19 (I suspect they’re all heavily Hispanic that near the border, and therefore Dem. One of them, Salineno, is more than 99% Hispanic.)
(2) Trump can swing a way to build the wall outside of the “city or the census designated place”
(3) he simply uses funds freed up by the emergency declaration
(4) we can use half the desired funds, up through 9/30/2020. Hmm, does that mean the good guys can simply request double the money they think they need for those areas, then get half of that?

Also, what exactly does it mean for funds to be appropriated, obligated, encumbered, and/or authorized? All these terms come up in budgeting, and it’s not clear what exactly their import would be in this context. Can funds be requested/ encumbered/ whatever for wall even while “consultations” are underway? Any accountants out there who want to chime in?

Let’s look at the specific places mentioned. From later in Section 232:

(c) The cities and census designated place described
in this subsection are as follows:
(1) Roma, Texas.
(2) Rio Grande City, Texas.
(3) Escobares, Texas.
( 4) La Grulla, Texas.
(5) The census designated place of Salineno, Texas.

The second hit in Google for Roma, Texas is

Roma, Texas: A Smuggler’s Paradise

Fucking great.

Roma borders the Rio Grande, i.e. borders Mexico:,+TX+78584/@26.4217324,-99.039651,13z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x86646e1008049ee3:0xe66708d7b6fcc558!8m2!3d26.4088523!4d-99.0156554
so there’s no way to build wall along that stretch of border without it being within city limits.

This is a naked, blatant requirement that illegal immigration be allowed to continue in that town. Presumably it’s the same for the others.

From online maps:
I guesstimate the total Mexican border of Roma at 3 miles.
Escobares, 1 mile.
Rio Grande City, about 3 miles.
La Grulla, less than 500 feet. The city is weirdly gerrymandered so that it has a long, thin arm that stretches to the Rio Grande.
The census designated place of Salineno, Texas. About 1.5 miles.

There are things that can be done, as noted above, and this bill doesn’t make the situation worse. But still:

President Trump should make public the cheap trick in this bad faith bill. Use Twitter, use a special address, use the White House web page, everything. By any reasonable standard, he now has carte blanche to stop “negotiating” with Democrats and to go “unilateral” on anything pertaining to immigration and border security.


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