Texas could help build President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, the president suggested Thursday — an idea that apparently came from the state’s outspoken lieutenant governor, a vocal advocate for border security.
At a McAllen roundtable Thursday with a number of Texas officials, Trump said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a Republican who visited the White House earlier this week to talk border security — had offered to play a role in the wall’s construction.
“One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was: Give the state of Texas a relatively small amount of money — they’ll build a wall themselves, cause they wanna build it,” Trump said Thursday afternoon at a McAllen roundtable. “I thought that was not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Although, I still think I can do it cheaper than you. ... You do things very well in Texas, and I like that idea, so we’ll take a look.”
It’s unclear how serious Trump is about the proposal. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment, but Patrick's office confirmed that the lieutenant governor had made the offer.
"The lieutenant governor told the president that if the federal government will reimburse the state for that money, we will build the wall in the areas where it is needed along our 1,254-mile border," a spokesman for Patrick confirmed Thursday.
The idea was met with skepticism from Gov. Greg Abbott. During a TV interview later Thursday, the Republican leader questioned how the federal government would be able to pay back Texas if it cannot currently get the funding it wants for the wall.
"It’s a hypothetical with no conclusion because the federal government is not stepping up and funding border security and so it’s a circular argument because we're all just waiting around for the federal government and Congress to do its job, to appropriate funding, to secure our border and our state," Abbott told KENS, the CBS affiliate in San Antonio.
Abbott did not join Trump in McAllen.
Trump's comments came on day 20 of a partial federal government shutdown — the result of a stalemate between Trump and Congress over Trump’s signature campaign promise. A number of Texas officials joined Trump at the border Thursday afternoon to discuss the need for border security, including both of the state’s U.S. senators, Patrick himself and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Patrick traveled to the White House Tuesday and met with the president’s son in law, Jared Kushner, about border security issues and the president’s Monday night televised address on the border wall. A Trump ally who chaired the president’s 2016 campaign in Texas, the lieutenant governor has expressed support for a border wall.
And in a series of public addresses on Wednesday, Patrick spoke of the need for a border wall stretching from Brownsville to Falcon Lake, a distance of under 200 miles — shy of the 1,200-mile wall Trump has sometimes called for.
Patrick also pledged on Wednesday that Texas’ biennial budget, which will be crafted over the next several months, will contain $800 million for border security, the same amount it included in the current two-year budget.
Even the suggestion that Texas might help build the controversial structure drew immediate rebukes from top state Democrats.
Texans want to build schools, not walls. This ludicrous proposal from @realDonaldTrump and @DanPatrick is inhumane and un-Texan. Our focus this session should be on bringing people together, not finding new ways to sow fear and division. #txlege https://t.co/tWHwtmtZ0h— Chris Turner (@ChrisGTurner) January 10, 2019
Trump also said Thursday that Patrick had encouraged him to be clearer about how Mexico would fund the wall — indirectly, Trump claimed, through a new trade deal that has yet to be approved by Congress, not via a check from the Mexican government.
"And Dan said, 'Will you do me a favor? Say that,'" the president said.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.