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Pearce votes against funding border wall

A child walks near the Mexican border in Sunland Park, where a new $11 million section of fence that features 18-foot-tall steel columns and steel panels underground is being built to replace an old chain-link fence. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce has always said he opposes President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, and this week he put his vote where his mouth is – at least symbolically.

The New Mexico Republican on Thursday voted against $1.6 billion for a security wall stretching across the U.S. border with Mexico. But the border wall money was ultimately included anyway in a massive national security spending bill that House Republicans – including Pearce – eventually approved Thursday night.

The broader bill included funding for the Veterans Administration, a pay raise for service members and enhanced security at the U.S. Capitol, among many other defense-related expenses.

Pearce, who is running for governor of New Mexico in 2018 and represents a district that includes the state’s border with Mexico, surely hopes to moderate his very conservative image ahead of the statewide race. After Thursday’s vote he called me – unsolicited – asking that I inform New Mexicans of his reasoning on the border wall vote.

The congressman said he objected to the inclusion of money for the 2,700-mile wall without hearings and debate. His House GOP colleagues used a rare maneuver called a “self-executing rule” to tack the border wall money into the broader security legislation without taking a separate vote on it. Pearce was one of five Republicans to join all House Democrats in voting against the maneuver, which passed the GOP-controlled chamber on a 230-196 vote.

“We’ve been pretty straightforward with Trump that there are better ways to secure the border than this long, expensive wall,” Pearce said. “It should have been debated, it should have been up for a yes or no vote. We need to have a cleaner, better process.”

Pearce said he’s all for securing it, but thinks it can be done with technology and a better deployment of border enforcement manpower instead of a massive wall. He said he keeps in his Las Cruces office a section of a border wall that was breached to remind him that those desperate enough will always find a way to get past a mere wall.

Asked how he would vote if the border wall money were included in a separate bill, the congressman said he would oppose it.

“If you’re going to just devote funding to the physical, straight-up wall, then you are going to force me … to vote no,” he said

Pesticide ban

Sen. Tom Udall this week introduced legislation to ban a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to developmental problems in children.

Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said the legislation is a response to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rejection of EPA scientists’ determination that all food applications of the pesticide are unsafe and that the chemical risks harm to children, farmworkers and the environment.

“The science hasn’t changed since EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos in 2015 and 2017 – only the politics have,” Udall said in a statement. “We can’t wait until 2022 for the EPA to act – Congress must pass this legislation urgently to protect the health of our children, farmers, and farmworkers from this toxic pesticide.”