Congress has so far declined to provide any money to build a wall
Democrats have been united against the idea
President Donald Trump suggested his oft-promised border wall could be covered in solar panels in a meeting with congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
Trump had convened Republican leaders at the White House for a conversation about their legislative agenda, largely on health care and the debt ceiling.
But during the meeting Trump also suggested his border wall could be built with solar panels as a way to pay for it, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
Trump was meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Whip John Cornyn.
In a joint statement, McConnell and Ryan called the meeting “good, productive” and “focused on … how we can accomplish our goals.”
Though Trump repeatedly promised a wall along the entire southern border during the campaign – paid for by Mexico, he said – Congress has yet to appropriate any money to the administration to follow through.
The Department of Homeland Security was allowed by congressional appropriators to move $20 million from elsewhere in the budget to support the construction of some prototypes for wall options.
In the pitch process this spring, at least two companies proposed designs that included solar panels, per designs that were shared with CNN. DHS has yet to select its top proposals.
After being rebuffed by Congress for money to build any wall in fiscal year 2017, the administration has asked appropriators for $1.6 billion to build 74 miles in 2018, according to DHS: 32 miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley, 28 miles for levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley and 14 miles of replacement for secondary fencing in San Diego.
While Trump has discussed a concrete wall dozens of feet high, Kelly has told Congress that Border Patrol agents on the ground say different solutions may be better – especially that any border barrier should be see-through, so agents can have an understanding of what is happening on the other side.
Kelly also testified before the Senate this spring that the wall would not stretch “from sea to shining sea,” but would be placed selectively where it made the most strategic sense.
Even though Democrats tend to support renewable energy, it’s unlikely that an offer to add solar panels would change their united opposition to any money to build Trump’s wall.
Republicans need Democratic votes to pass government spending in the Senate, and if enough conservative members of the House balked at the price tag, they could be necessary in the House. Democrats have said categorically they will not agree to funds for Trump’s wall or his aggressive immigration enforcement actions, and many Republican lawmakers who represent border states have said they would only support reasonable solutions and not a 2,000-mile massive barrier.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Jeremy Diamond and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.