MSNBC’s Witt Skeptically Questions Border Control Spending, But Not Food Stamp Spending

MSNBC anchor Alex Witt turned into a skeptic of federal government spending on Saturday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, but before you get too excited, it was predictably in service of a larger liberal agenda. Witt questioned the wisdom of a $30 billion border security amendment that is now being debated in the Senate. This amendment to the larger Senate immigration bill calls for 20,000 additional border control agents, 700 miles of additional fencing along the southern border, and the expanded use of radar and drone technology.

Regarding the $30 billion cost of the amendment, Witt expressed her fear to U.S. News and World Report’s Lauren Fox: “[W]e're talking about a heck of a lot of money to help secure this border but will it actually accomplish that?”


The amendment was offered mainly to please Senate Republicans who were reluctant to support the original immigration bill. So naturally, MSNBC is skeptical of it.

Fox shared Witt’s skepticism: “[W]hether or not it actually strengthens the border to the point where it's completely secure we're gonna have to see. It's obviously a substantial amount of money.”

And where was this skepticism during the ObamaCare debate? If Witt and Fox are going to question whether this $30 billion will completely secure the border, they should have questioned whether Obamacare’s $1.1 trillion will give every American health insurance coverage and access to quality care. After all, that was a much more substantial amount of money, and it went towards an object not provided for in the Constitution. By contrast, border security spending is a legitimate and necessary expense of the federal government, which is constitutionally charged with safeguarding the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a fit of unintentional comedy, Witt wondered whether the free-spending Obama administration wanted to spend such an exorbitant amount for border security: “Is the White House on board with spending $30 billion for border security in order to pass immigration reform? Do they want legislation at any cost here?”

Well, if the president was willing to sign a $787 billion stimulus package and a trillion-dollar health care law, I would think a mere $30 billion to secure the border would be peanuts for him.

But wait, there's more. Later in that very segment, Witt questioned Fox on the failure of the House to pass a pork-laden farm bill: “This House bill – it would have cut projected spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion over the next ten years. $20.5 billion of that would have come from the cuts to the food stamp program. So what happens to the farm bill now, Lauren?”

You'll notice that Witt didn’t question the effectiveness, much less constitutionality, of the spending items in the farm bill, particularly the 80 percent of the bill tied up in food stamps. If Witt were really concerned with wise spending of taxpayer dollars, this should be a consideration.

The long and short of it is that Witt doesn't blink an eye when it comes to doling out taxpayer money for welfare spending, but she does raise eyebrows at the prospect of better policing the border to prevent illegal immigrants from getting into the country and becoming a drain on the social safety net.

Below is a partial transcript of the exchange:

ALEX WITT: We're going to start with the potential make or break moment here for immigration reform. You have Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who have unveiled this new amendment. That includes $30 billion to strengthen the U.S.-Mexico border, 20,000 additional border agents, some new drone, very high-tech technology there. So Lauren, we're talking about a heck of a lot of money to help secure this border but will it actually accomplish that?

LAUREN FOX: You know, this is a political amendment. There have been -- there's been this big drive in the Senate to get some of the Republicans who are on the fence about this immigration bill and the path to citizenship for the 11 million. How do we sweeten the deal for them? And that – this seems to be the solution here. But whether or not it actually strengthens the border to the point where it's completely secure we're gonna have to see. It's obviously a substantial amount of money. It shows that there's a lot more work to be done here on the border. There's going to be 700 more miles of border fence. And talking to some folks down in Texas this week for a story I've been working on, they say, you know, we do need additional help. There still isn't enough security on the border, and they are especially excited about some of this high-tech performance border security measures like drones.

WITT: Well, you know, David, we were listening there to the president who’s pressed for immigration reform in his weekly address this morning. Is the White House on board with spending $30 billion for border security in order to pass immigration reform? Do they want legislation at any cost here?



DAVID NAKAMURA: Alex, I think something Lauren said is right. This is a political amendment. It gives some more conservatives -- Republicans -- an opportunity to maybe vote for this and support it and go back and say, hey, we're going to vote for this because it does x, y and z on the border. But I think, you know, to be honest with you, I think the Obama administration, they’ve touted quite a bit all the things that they have already done. I mean, spending on the border is already at the highest -- at record levels. The number of people trying to cross is estimated to be at record low levels. Still people coming in, don’t get me wrong, and there is still work to be done there. And there's also work to be done sort of interior once people do get here trying to find them and make sure they're not getting jobs illegally. But I think the White House would say they’ll accept this. The president said it's not a bill I would get everything I want, it's not a bill I would write from the start. But he is willing to compromise, and I think the reason is because Republicans may then support this path to citizenship that is sort of the holy grail for people who support immigration reform.

***

WITT: Lauren, I want to ask you about the surprising defeat of the farm bill in the House this week. I mean, the conservatives demanded deeper cuts in the food stamp program. Democrats objected to it. This House bill – it would have cut projected spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion over the next ten years. $20.5 billion of that would have come from the cuts to the food stamp program. So what happens to the farm bill now, Lauren?

FOX: Yeah, there's definitely a scramble in the House right now. I don't think anyone knows how exactly they are going to proceed. The Senate bill passed with a broad majority, so many in the Senate are saying, why don't you just take up that bill? Of course, House Speaker Boehner has signaled that that's not a step he's going to be willing to take. It may just happen that we kick the can down the road and do a one-year extension once again, just like we did last year on this House farm bill because it looks like the House GOP isn't united here and there aren’t – there isn't a way to get enough Democrats on board without violating the so-called Hastert rule and Boehner getting the majority of his caucus on board.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.