Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy, left, and John Kennedy

After President Donald Trump's televised Oval Office address last night in which he repeated his call for a physical border wall separating the United States from Mexico, U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy reintroduced legislation that would have Americans, not Mexico, paying for its construction.

“We can certainly afford the construction,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Sen. [Jim] Inhofe and I are teaming up on legislation that will save taxpayers $33 billion simply by ensuring that the taxpayers’ generosity isn’t wasted."

The WALL Act, which Cassidy and Kennedy introduced with U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Ted Cruz of Texas, would fund the border wall with $25 billion raised from cracking down on fraud and abuse, which Inhofe has repeatedly claimed would pay for itself over the next 10 years — with $8 billion left over.

Cassidy press secretary Ty Bofferding said the senator had introduced legislation last year that would have funded the wall by seizing assets of drug traffickers, and that the WALL Act would not raise or redirect current taxes, but rather come from crackdowns on new and existing laws.

Much of the funds would come from new laws that would require a work-authorized Social Security number to claim refundable tax credits, require more stringent application requirements for welfare applicants and increase fines on those who cross the border illegally. 

“This isn’t just about illegal immigration, and it isn’t just about stopping dangerous gang members from coming into our country," Cassidy said in a statement. "It’s also about stopping the flow of drugs coming across our border, killing Americans in communities across the country."

Trump promised 212 times during his presidential campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, and that payment was a cornerstone of his "Contract With the American Voter," a list of promises he issued in 2016. His language was unequivocal: "[It] fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border... with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such a wall."

Since then, Trump has floated several rationales for having Americans pay for it, including reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The federal government is currently in its 19th day of a partial shutdown over Trump's insistence he will not sign any legislation to fund the government unless it includes at least $5 billion for border wall construction; House Democrats have offered $1.3 billion.

Trump also offered to take the blame for the shutdown, later reversing himself and blaming Democrats. Today he told The Washington Post that he was willing to let the shutdown go on indefinitely: "Whatever it takes."

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