Trump Offers To Substitute ‘Concrete Wall’ With ‘Steel Barrier’

President Trump is offering to change his 'concrete wall' with a 'steel barrier' in what he apparently things is a compromise.

President Trump’s latest apparent effort to resolve the government shutdown is to build a “steel barrier” instead of a concrete wall at the southern border:

 President Trump’s evolving definition of a border wall animated negotiations to end a partial government shutdown on Sunday, while House Democrats moved to increase pressure on the president by vowing to pass individual bills to reopen targeted departments that handle critical functions like tax refunds and food stamps.

“I informed my folks to say that we’ll build a steel barrier,” Mr. Trump told reporters after returning to the White House from a senior staff meeting at Camp David. He added of the Democrats, “They don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel.”

The president characterized the second day of talks between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic congressional aides as “productive” after saying earlier in the day that he did not anticipate much progress. But Mr. Trump also said that, if no deal could be reached over his demand for $5.7 billion for the border wall, he was still considering using “emergency” authority to build the barrier with other government funds.

For their part, Democrats said there was no progress as the shutdown entered its 16th day, and asked again that the government be reopened before negotiations on border security money begin.

A day before, they had asked the administration for a detailed plan of how such money would be used, and the Office of Management and Budget responded with a letter on Sunday evening reiterating the president’s request for $5.7 billion for the construction of “a steel barrier” along the southern border. Democrats have rebuffed that figure.

But the letter also provided a fuller picture of Mr. Trump’s border demands. In a small gesture to Democrats, it said the president wanted $800 million “to address urgent humanitarian needs,” including enhanced medical treatment. It also asked for funds to support 52,000 detention beds and 2,000 more law enforcement agents.

The shutdown, which is threatening to become the longest in American history, is affecting about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will soon miss their first paycheck, and has curtailed the functions of numerous government agencies. The impasse has also added another crisis to Mr. Trump’s turbulent presidency as he adjusts to working in an era in which he must now share power with Democrats.

The party’s leaders gave little indication that they would come to terms with the president if he simply changed the materials used to construct the wall. Mr. Trump has been talking at least since mid-December about building a wall made up of “artistically designed steel slats” instead of concrete, but he seized on the idea on Sunday to a new degree.

“There’s no requirement that this government be shut down while we deliberate the future of any barrier, whether it’s a fence or a wall,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said that while he thought the shutdown was “going to drag on a lot longer,” Mr. Trump’s shift in wall materials could provide a semantic opening to advance the talks.

“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mr. Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”If that’s not evidence of the president’s desire to try and resolve this, I don’t know what is.”

So basically, we’re now at the point where the White House considers a compromise to be saying that they will build the southern border wall with steel rather than concrete and that they’d be willing to call it a “steel barrier” rather than a “wall,” all in exchange for the same $5.7 billion that Democrats have already said they are unwilling to provide the President. If this is a true reflection of the state of negotiations between the White House and House and Senate Democrats, which continued at the White House over the weekend, then it’s fairly clear that the two sides are as far apart on a solution to this shutdown as they were when the President pulled the rug out from under Congressional Republicans and rejected the plan the Senate had passed, which he previously indicated he would support, that would have kept the government open through February 8th, thus prompting the shutdown that now finds itself equaling the length of the 2013 Obamacare Shutdown with no prospect of it ending today given the fact that Congress isn’t even in session.

From the Democratic point of view, of course, the wall is a non-starter regardless of what kind of material it’s made of and regardless of what it’s called. A wall is a wall whether it’s made of steel or concrete and whether it’s called a “wall” or a “barrier.” As Shakespeare might put it a wall by any other name is still a wall, and changing the name and the material it’s made with isn’t a serious effort at negotiation, it’s a ruse, a sham, and an indication that this Administration isn’t serious about bringing the shutdown to an end. As I said yesterday, the only way this is going to end is when we get to the point where one side or the other begins to feel the political pressure necessary to cause them to act. In the coming days, we’re likely to see polling on the shutdown. If that polling is overwhelmingly negative for one side or the other, then it could prompt action. Don’t expect the Trump Administration to be moved by polls, of course, since they’ll just be looking at the question of whether or not they’re losing (or gaining) support from their Republican base. Given that, it’s going to take movement from somewhere else to create the pressure necessary prompt a shutdown. As I’ve suggested before, the most likely crack in the wall is likely to come from Senate Republicans who becoming less willing to stand behind the pledge of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to not consider any bill that the President hasn’t agreed to in advance. There are already some signs that this is happening. If the political pressure grows, especially for Republicans who may be vulnerable in 2020, then we could be playing a very different ballgame. As things stand right now, don’t expect any resolution any time soon.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    Too bad those tariffs made steel so much more expensive.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Next offer, a beaded curtain.

  3. rachel says:

    Dems: suggest Italian for lunch.
    Trump: Insists on tire rims and anthrax.

    HT/ Balloon Juice

  4. MarkedMan says:

    I think a lot of us assume Trump is just making fun of the Dems by this wall/barrier nonsense. But I don’t think so. This is exactly the kind of thing Trump does himself and, quite frankly, many of his supporters are stupid enough to fall for it. Just look at the Einsteins who defend him in our comments section…

  5. “If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mr. Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”If that’s not evidence of the president’s desire to try and resolve this, I don’t know what is.”

    Well, it would seem that Mulvaney doesn’t know what “evidence of a desire to try and resolve this” looks like.

    How does a person go an TV and say something like that? Amazing.

  6. Kathy says:

    I’m convinced. In return I offer we incarcerate rather than imprison Mr. Trump for his campaign financing crimes.

  7. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You pretty much have to say stuff like that if you’re going to be Trump’s spokesperson. Look at Sanders.

  8. @CSK: I know. And I understand that they all made a deal with the devil that they appear to think is worth it. It still amazes me.

    This is one helluva way to get into the history books.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    Longer ago than I care to admit I attended a Boy Scout camp on the northern edge of North Dakota. One day I followed a trail off into the woods and came across a standard issue barbed wire fence. I thought, “Odd, who’d have cattle in the woods?” The trail ran along the fence for a ways and I found a barely legible rusted steel sign identifying it as the US/Canadian border. Wouldn’t have taken ten seconds to climb over.

    Barbed wire is steel. How about we offer Trumpsky a billion for as much barbed wire as he can string with it?

  10. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What puzzles me about the ones who stick it out with Trump is this: Where, exactly, do they think they’ll be going after January 2021 or January 2025? Fox can’t hire them all at astronomical salaries. When the most recent item on your resume is “four years serving as chief prevaricator for a malevolent buffoon,” what are your options?

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The amazing thing is that THERE IS NO PLAN.
    2,000 miles of wall and there is no plan. What is the REAL level of the problem, not Sarah Sanders lies, but a real analysis? Is the expenditure actually justified, or does it just make Ann Coulter horny? What is the route; are we building this thing down the middle of the Rio Grande? Where is it actually a wall? Where is it just fence? How many pass-thrus? Where are they? Where is taking land by eminent domain going to be required? (1/3 of the Bush Administration eminent domain cases on the border are still not settled) Environmental reports? Staffing? Maintenance?
    None of the above exists, yet 800,000 Public Employees are not getting paid. Our air travel is less safe. IRS refunds won’t go out. No food stamps.
    Come to me with real analysis, a real plan, and a real budget, and then we can talk. $5.6B for an abstract concept that stands little or no chance of getting built doesn’t seem like a conservative expenditure of money to me.

  12. JohnMcC says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “How does a person go on TV and say something like that? Amazing.”

    And remember, they are putting their best ones forward to face the media and the world. Their smartest and most articulate. Their cleverest.

  13. KM says:


    Too bad those tariffs made steel so much more expensive.

    The dummie probably thinks he can build it with US steel that’s somehow made cheaper by the tariffs. Sucks to be us – there’s won’t be enough for what he’s referring to and it’s going to shoot up in price. Who it doesn’t suck for – the steel folks who whispered this BS into his ear and Trump, for kickback reason obvi.

    This is him, trying to profit of the wall and make it look like he’s “reviving” jobs. It still doesn’t answer basic questions and adds in the wrinkles of steel construction (ie rusting on a barrier wall is BAD, folks and this is meant to go into a river!)

  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    How does a person go an TV and say something like that? Amazing.

    I think a better question is why “journalists” keep granting a person like that airtime in which to say it.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    $5.6B for an abstract concept that stands little or no chance of getting built doesn’t seem like a conservative expenditure of money to me.

    It sounds exactly like a modern American Conservative expenditure to me.

    You have a beautiful summary of just how far we’ve gone away from rational governance. But they can’t go through a normal planning process. Studies and position papers and data would lead to a conclusion they won’t accept, and they know it. Same with their tax cut and AGW denial. GOPus delendus est.

  16. Mr. Prosser says:

    @CSK: I’d say most of them are going for the immediate gain and then head out, no future planning. Most of them are well off now.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Exactly like Brexit planning in the U.K., actually.

    I still haven’t figured out whether Theresa May et al are trying to pull some immense bluffing game on the EU in an attempt to get all the tea cakes they want, or whether they actually honestly believe that their “planning for a no-deal Brexit” is in fact sufficient. Certain Tory ministers are undoubtedly that dumb–a.k.a. Grayling–but are ALL of them that stupid?

    If so, then expect the U.K. to collapse into economic and physical chaos and gradually turn into Venezuela-on-the-Thames after March 31st, 2019.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: This is one of the reasons why the Billionaire Boys Club spends so much money on the Wingnut Welfare system. They can all look forward to at least low six figure sinecures in the vast sea of think (sic) tanks, lobbyists, and activist organizations. Mendacity in the service of the cause, mindless loyalty, and mediocrity are scored as plusses there.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    And BTW…during Individual-1’s insane press conference the other day he patronizingly told a female journalist that steel is stronger than concrete.
    It’s pretty complicated…but no. Concrete is great in compression. Steel is great in tension. But concrete barriers have a shitload of steel reinforcement in them…so that they can act both in compression and tension. Steel relies on it’s shape for compressive strength. The shape shown by Dennison for his slat wall wouldn’t stand up very well to impact from, say, a bus. Steel bollards, designed to stop buses, are almost always filled with concrete.
    Like I said…its complicated, but concrete is “stronger”.

  20. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s pretty clear from this that the Trump administration never intends to build any barrier, much less a wall. This statement shows that they see that what matters for them for ending the shutdown is that they save face with the base. They want to keep the Wall alive as a rhetorical device, so they can say they are fighting for it, but they won’t be troubled to turn it into a physical structure that comes anywhere close to covering the border.

    So, for them, they think the Democrats are fighting them in the rhetorical space as well. The Trump administration just can’t fathom that they are being opposed on the substance of the policy.

    (And Mulvaney! He’s always been full of it, but that’s Superman level BS there.)

  21. MarkedMan says:

    The Dems should compromise by throwing The admin $5M or so to come up with a comprehensive plan that would show everything they are planning, in detail. That should be their rallying cry, “You can’t get money unles you know what you are building. Just basic common sense.”

  22. Pete S says:

    My working assumption for the last couple of weeks is that Trump is hoping to get $5B into appropriations for a wall that will never be built in the hopes that he can stuff a fair bit of it into his own pockets.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yeah, but give him credit for trying to market the hell out of that shit sandwich he’s been given to sell. He’s working really hard.

    ETA: “IRS refunds won’t go out.” Fortunately (???) for me, I’m not anticipating refunds any more; my side income is so low that my employers take out virtually nothing for taxes. I started a separate account to pay them in anticipation of this when I came back from Korea, and used it to pay taxes the last two years. Now if the shutdown slows the rate at which the IRS cashes checks, I’m golden. I can make as much as 10 or 15 extra cents interest on the lag.

  24. CSK says:

    @Mr. Prosser:
    I think they’re committed to the belief that too much money is never enough.

  25. CSK says:

    Angus King apparently thinks that a wall in some places would be a good idea.

  26. @CSK: I would agree that a barrier is effective in some places, but I am pretty sure we have barriers in those places.

  27. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Like I said…its complicated, but concrete is “stronger”.

    It’s pretty obvious, too. No one, and I mean no one, builds anything out of only concrete. All concrete used in buildings, bridges, etc. is steel-reinforced and has been for a long time.

    That this guy used to be in construction boggles the mind.

  28. @Kathy:

    That this guy used to be in construction boggles the mind.

    But, I was assured (by him) that nobody knows more about construction than he does.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But, I was assured (by him) that nobody knows more

    You must watch this…

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:


    That this guy used to be in construction boggles the mind.

    Trust me, he wasn’t. He was in the other people’s money handling business.

  31. Teve says:

    @Stormy Dragon: cable news and the need to fill 24 hours create real incentives to put anybody on, especially if they’re inflammatory. That’s why we have to take pains to curate our own media consumption. I’ve had to create rules for myself just so I didn’t waste all my time arguing on the internet.

  32. Teve says:

    @JohnMcC: Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Kurt Godel, and Murray gell-mann, wouldn’t be able to come up with an intelligent defense of the shit Trump does and says. When somebody chooses to support and defend Trump they have already failed.

  33. Teve says:

    @Pete S: this is after all, a guy who stole from his own charity.

  34. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Agreed. His father built a moderate real estate empire and may have had buildings constructed. Whatever construction, if any, Donald was involved in was limited to early in his career, before he bankrupted 4 casinos, an airline and a sports league. By that time he had no money and no one was going to lend him any. The Trump corporation seems to make money in three ways: licensing his name to put on things; managing other people’s hotels, and various sleazy deals that seemed to go well beyond licensing, but when they failed, were claimed as licensing only deal.

    For example, here’s one:

    As they did in such deals, Trump’s team negotiated upfront fees in return for licensing his name. The final terms: $4 million (to be paid in monthly installments), as an advance against 50 percent of all project profits. The Trump Organization, it would turn out, did not vet the developers closely. But the company was strict in one respect: It insisted that the developers personally guarantee the licensing fees.

    As in many of these Trump deals, he walked away with the $4M even as the hapless retirees lost their life savings in deposits on the failed condos. Maybe someone out there that knows more than I do, but the $4M upfront and 50% of the profits for putting a name on the place just doesn’t make sense for a legitimate project. It effectively doubles the price just to get Trump’s name on it. And the idea that a three bedroom condo with contractor grade interiors is going to sell for twice what the exact same unit sells for in the next development over just because it is called “Trump Riverside Plaza” rather than “Cambridge Estates” is ludicrous. Think about your house. Think about one that costs twice as much. Would you ever get them mixed up? And lest you think that the actual developer was some kind of titan of the industry, here’s his description:

    The patterns include the Trump Organization’s decision to team with an inexperienced group of developers — led by a former professional wrestler, in this instance — who planned to construct a 52-story tower on a parcel that they belatedly discovered couldn’t support such a structure without millions of dollars in extra work.

    It’s hard to imagine that this crew combined with Trump ever had any intention of doing more than walk away with the deposits and the investments of any chump that came along. And this isn’t a one off. There are dozens of such Trump “developments”, all ending in court with Trump keeping his licensing fees and the depositors and investors getting nothing.

  35. Inhumans99 says:

    I just glanced at a Deadline Hollywood story that President Trump wants network time tomorrow evening so I guess he is going to go through with his threat to declare building the wall a national emergency so he can use military personnel.

    If this is true, amazing and yet I bet Congress still shows no spine and does not forcefully say hell no, this will not happen. Folks like my dad (Vietnam Veteran) and this sites founder James should be beyond angry that our President wants to use military personal in such a manner. To be fair, I speak for neither one of them and should not put words in their mouths.

  36. Kathy says:

    I stumbled into this piece today, offering several explanations for Trump’s supporters.

    Some confirms my own observations and other pieces I’ve read, including some backed by polls.

    I still wonder what motivates professional politicians who are serving in appointed rather than elective capacities.

  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Extra points for Godel and Gell-Mann.

  38. Donald Trump Spending $Billions of your Tax Money on a Useless Wall

    Yes, Your money will pay for Donald’s misguided dream wall. Walls became useless in the early 1800s when modern tech made tunnels in hours possible. There have been tunnels under the border discovered and back-filled in recent years and there may be more undiscovered today.

    Donald says the wall will stop criminals. Shake your head Donald. Criminals arrive at U.S. Airports with the best forged documents drug money can buy. Drug bosses have no need to shimmy over any border wall.

    Are you a U.S. Citizen? If so, why do you allow Trump to spend $Billions of your money on a wall that defies all logic? As a Canadian who has lived in Texas, I find it sad that so many Americans seem unable to think clearly about a useless wall. The smart Texans I met while living in Corpus Christi sure don’t believe in Trump’s dumb wall.

    Besides, it is totally against the American Spirit if you know the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty. Do something. Join an on-line protest petition at least.

    Don’t let Trump’s hate for Latinos cost you $Billions. U.S. Farmers and fruit growers swear they can not do without them. That goes for hotels, motels, fast food, domestic helpers and many others.
    Anthony Robinson

  39. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: the Trump Chumps don’t show up very often these days. Or we could ask them.

  40. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @CSK: Every time I hear La Sarah try to justify the President’s comments, it reminds me of a lyric from Ray Charles: “Tell your mama, tell your pa, I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas.”