The efforts of three U.S. House members to stop President Donald Trump's border wall have caused us to wonder who are the Democrats and who are the Republicans in this debate.

More: Democrats' bill would block land seizures to build Trump's border wall

U.S. Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Beto O'Rourke of El Paso and Filemon Vela of Brownsville, all Democrats, are fighting for private property rights, fiscal responsibility and governing best by governing least. They are fighting against protectionism and a giant federal make-work boondoggle that makes Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps look like a neighborhood pocket park.

The late Adam Smith and William F. Buckley would be proud of them. Probably also Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. They'd be dismayed by Trump and his Republican enablers.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (Photo: Gallego campaign)


Gallego and O'Rourke are sponsoring a bill called the Protecting the Property Rights of Border Landowners Act, a self-explanatory name. Vela is seeking to amend the heck out of the Border Security for America Act of 2017 in ways that would accomplish what his two border colleagues seek, plus requiring Trump to keep his impossible campaign promise of making Mexico pay for the wall before a U.S. nickel can be spent on it.

Vela notes that the border security bill authorizes $10 billion for the wall "and does not even pretend to provide a way to pay for it." Shouldn't it?

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (Photo: Contributed Photo)

Vela also seeks:

  • A $20 million fund to reimburse property owners for the expense of defending their land,
  • A requirement that Homeland Security exhaust all other alternatives to seizing land and provide evidence that none exists before exercising eminent domain, 
  • And a definition of "border wall system." In addition to that elusive definition, members of Congress would have to answer "whether they agree with President Trump that the border wall should be a ‘big and beautiful, see-through, concrete, solar-generating, 700- to 900-mile-long wall.’"

It's a reasonable demand in the face of a reason-defying quest. "Big, beautiful wall" was an amusing campaign slogan that tens of millions of Americans didn't take seriously, as neither did Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto or former President Vicente Fox, because why would they? A 2,000-mile wall would be an incalculable expense, not to mention — as border representatives have on many occasions — a humanitarian, cultural and environmental hate crime.

Yet, since the election, the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have been playing along with Trump as if there actually could be a tall, gleaming wall someday, all the way from Brownsville to the Pacific — paid for by Mexico. With several notable exceptions who provide endless Comedy Central sound bytes, deep down they all know better.

Vela's proposed amendment is a demand that they face and embrace the absurdity of the proposal, eyes open. It's a public insult to them and to Trump, and therefore surely destined to be brushed aside. But they should thank Vela privately for offering the reset button that so desperately needs to be pushed collectively nationwide.

Many of Trump's Republican critics challenge whether he's really one of them. The expense and overwhelmingly negative return on investment for a border wall make a strong case against him and anyone else who supports the wall idea being a Republican in anything other than name. They own it now, and they have forfeited the franchise on fiscal responsibility and commonsense government to Gallego, O'Rourke, Vela and other like-minded Democrats.