— From NBC's Mike Viqueira
With President Bush signing into law today the authorization for the 700-mile fence along the border, there's some disagreement among Republicans in Congress over just how much it's going to cost. The House Appropriations Committee, whose responsibility it is to count and (especially) spend money, estimates that the fence will cost in the neighborhood of $9 million a mile, which would put the total cost of the barrier at $6.3 billion. They base their estimate on what it had cost to build the existing fence near San Diego.
The House Homeland Security Committee, however, disputes that figure. They say the fence will cost only $2 to 4 billion. So if we call it $3 billion, that puts the per mile charge at $4.3 million. The committee bases this figure on an "internal estimate." Whatever the case, keep in mind that the measure that Bush signed today does not "pay" for anything. It merely "authorizes" -- i.e. gives permission -- for the fence to be built. So far Congress has put down only $1.2 billion in real cash to pay for actual construction.