Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during daily press briefing at the White House, in Washington, Thursday, March 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Photo: Andrew Harnik
Photo: Andrew Harnik

Did top Democrats vote for a border wall in 2006?

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said he doesn’t understand Democratic opposition to funding the border wall because top Democrats voted for it just over 10 years ago.

On “Fox News Sunday” this week, Mulvaney scolded Democrats for obstructing action on Trump’s border wall and pointed to the voting record of top Democrats in 2006.

“We want our priorities funded and one of the biggest priorities during the campaign was border security, keeping Americans safe, and part of that was a border wall,” he said.

“We still don’t understand why the Democrats are so wholeheartedly against it. They voted for it in 2006. Then-Sen. Obama voted for it. Sen. Schumer voted for it. Sen. Clinton voted for it. So we don’t understand why Democrats are now playing politics just because Donald Trump is in office.”

Mulvaney was referring to their votes on an act that authorized a fence, but the 2006 fence was less ambitious than the wall Trump is proposing.

The Secure Fence Act of 2006, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Presidehttps://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061026-1.htmlnt George W. Bush, authorized about 700 miles of fencing along the border.

The act also authorized the use of more vehicle barriers, checkpoints and lighting to curb illegal immigration, and the use of advanced technology such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.

At the time, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were all members of the Senate. (Schumer of New York is now the Senate minority leader.)

Obama, Clinton, Schumer and 23 other Democratic senators voted in favor of the act when it passed in the Senate 80-19.

Originally the act called for at least two layers of reinforced fencing along some stretches, but later legislation got rid of the double-layer requirement.

Currently, 702 miles of fencing separates the United States from Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

So how does that compare to Trump’s wall? Trump said the wall doesn’t need to run the nearly 2,000 miles of the border, but about 1,000 miles because of natural barriers. He said it could cost between $8 billion and $12 billion, be made of precast concrete, and rise 35 to 40 feet, or higher.

A wall and a fence both block people, but there are differences between the fence and Trump’s wall proposal.

A 2016 Associated Press report from the border said, “There are miles of gaps between segments and openings in the fence itself.” Trump criticized the 2006 fence during the 2016 campaign, saying, “it was such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall.”

The political context surrounding the 2006 vote was different.

Democrats saw the Secure Fence Act of 2006 as the lesser of two evils, according to a Boston Globe report that detailed the legislative process. Around that time, the House passed legislation that would make any undocumented immigrant a felon.

“It didn’t have anywhere near the gravity of harm,” Angela Kelley, who in 2006 was the legislative director for the National Immigration Forum, told the Boston Globe. “It was hard to vote against it because who is going to vote against a secure fence? And it was benign compared with what was out there.”

Democrats have described Trump’s wall proposal as overkill and too expensive. Recently, Democrats wrote to Senate Republicans saying border funding should not be included in the latest budget agreement to keep the government open.

Our ruling

Obama, Schumer and Clinton did vote for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized building a fence along about 700 miles of the border. The fence they voted for is not as substantial as the wall Trump is proposing. Trump called the 2006 fence a “nothing wall.”

Mulvaney’s statement is partially accurate, but ignores important context. We rate it Half True.

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