New funding plan for border wall: Go through TSA’s pockets and look for loose change


Either the border wall or TSA has gone past the “mostly dead” stage. How do we know? The Department of Homeland Security wants to dig up funding for the former by raiding the latter — and almost literally going through its pockets for loose change:

The Department of Homeland Security is requesting $232 million from the Transportation Security Administration to fund border operations in the event that Congress does not agree to fund $1.1 billion of its funding request, according to documents of a contingency plan obtained by NBC News.

Other components of DHS, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Administration, have also been asked to provide a portion of their overall budget to contribute to the $1.1 billion goal, according to the documents.

Internal emails and a PowerPoint presentation at the Transportation Security Administration last week outlined a plan on how the agency would fund a “tax” its parent agency may levy upon it. TSA programs identified as funding sources include $50 million set aside to buy advanced airport screening equipment and $64 million from a worker’s compensation fund set aside for injured TSA employees in 2010. The funding also includes $3 million collected from lose change left in trays at airports.

With all of the drama in Washington yesterday, this item would be easy to overlook. In fact, that’s precisely the problem at hand. Both parties have become so poisonously tangled over the remains of the Robert Mueller investigation that they have ceased engaging on even the most basic items of governance. Rather than allocate necessary funding for border security, Congress willfully grinded to a halt on the issue. That leaves DHS digging through airport ashtrays and upholstery to fund mission-critical items elsewhere.

In this case, though, it’s likely to create even more problems than usual. We’d already heard last week that DHS might transfer personnel from TSA to the border to support non-enforcement operations, a shift that might impact 10% of TSA’s workforce. At the time, DHS said that would not impact airport screening operations. This funds transfer might end up doing precisely that, NBC reported yesterday:

Funding for Transportation Security Officers, who run security screening lines in airports, are also “in play,” the email said. Cutting funding for those officers could have a significant impact on wait times for travelers as the summer season begins.

It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul when both are owed significant amounts of funding. Both thresholds require heightened security, and even if TSA might not be efficient or terribly effective at doing so, the answer to that is not draining their funds. Presumably this tactic is intended to put pressure on Congress to do their jobs, but at least in the short run it’s going to result in significant economic impact on summer travel for not a whole lot of difference to border operations.

The solution to this issue is to start looking for reasonable compromises on immigration enforcement resourcing. In that effort, Donald Trump has tapped an eminently reasonable negotiator in … Ken Cuccinelli?

President Trump is expected to name Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a former attorney general of Virginia and an immigration hard-liner, as his choice to coordinate the administration’s immigration policies, a White House official confirmed on Tuesday.

The specifics of the role — including the title and the scope of duties — are still being hashed out, according to the official. But Mr. Cuccinelli is expected to be based in the Department of Homeland Security, not in the White House.

Cuccinelli got the job after Kris Kobach apparently talked himself out of an offer:

Mr. Trump has been considering creating an immigration “czar” post for months, with Mr. Cuccinelli and Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, as his top choices. But Mr. Kobach was always seen within the White House as unlikely to get the role, and he put off Mr. Trump and some of his advisers with a list of 10 “requirements” he had for the job, including access to a government jet 24 hours a day, weekends off with his family in Kansas, and a promise to be nominated for Mr. McAleenan’s job by November if he wanted it.

Hoo boy. Cuccinelli’s better by comparison, but he’s not exactly a man who can sit down easily with Democratic leadership to craft compromises. In fact, he’s not exactly a man who can sit down easily with Republican leadership either:

YOU CAN BET that Cuccinelli’s power will be limited in D.C. He will probably never be welcome in the Senate Republican Conference, since he led a group that tried to defeat Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL. And we can’t imagine Democrats are going to be too interested in his views on immigration policy.

Yeah, well … have fun storming the castle. At this point, it’d take a miracle to make any progress.

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