The US House of Representatives has approved $1.6 billion (1.37 billion euros) to begin building a border wall with Mexico as promised by Donald Trump – a small part of a $68 billion (58.2 billion euros) increase in military spending.
The overall figure of $658.1 billion (563 billion euros) was over and above the amount the president had asked for, amid concern over US capability to defend itself given North Korea’s increasing capacity to hit the US with a nuclear-tipped missile.
Democrats are strongly opposed to the wall and are likely to try to kill the plans in the Senate.
Republicans included funding for the new barrier in the military spending bill at the last minute, knowing that many members of the House would not sink the whole plan by voting “no”. The fiscal 2018 spending bill was carried by 235 votes to 192.
President Trump has argued that a “big beautiful wall” is needed along the entire southwestern border and that Mexico will ultimately pay for its construction.
But even some Republican senators from states that voted for Trump have not embraced his plan.
House Republicans representing districts along the border are opposed, while immigration campaign groups argue the wall won’t stop illegal border crossings.
The overall bill beefs up Pentagon funding for military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots, enabling the number of troops to be increased while providing for a 2.4 percent pay rise. However it could hit a technical problem as it breaches a cap on defence spending.
Congress faces an October 1 deadline to approve funding plans for next year.