Amid shutdown, Texas governor sidesteps border wall debate

Republican Greg Abbott has made no mention of President Donald Trump's proposed border wall after taking the oath for a second term as Texas governor

Virtually all Texas Republicans have stood by the president throughout the shutdown. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz both accompanied Trump to the Texas border last week , as did Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who went so far to suggest that Texas could oversee construction of a wall if given the money.

Abbott didn't join Trump, with aides to the governor saying there were scheduling conflicts. But Abbott has also not taken a clear position on Trump's demands for a wall in recent interviews, and he isn't casting the border as a priority for Texas at a time when the president is calling the situation 250 miles south of the state Capitol a crisis.

Abbott, who four years ago vowed that "I will secure our border" during his first inauguration address, never mentioned it in his second one Tuesday.

"Together, we will pay our teachers more. We will provide a better education for our students. We will make our schools safer," Abbott said. "We will tackle skyrocketing property taxes. We will help Texans recover from storms that have ravaged our communities. We will do all this and more."

Inauguration speeches traditionally lean more toward long-range visions than current events. But some use the occasion to mix both. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, chided the Trump administration following his swearing-in last week but did so without saying the president's name.

Abbott sidestepping the debate is the most visible example of the Texas Legislature suddenly taking the spotlight off border security after GOP lawmakers spent years campaigning on the issue.

Some Republicans say Texas has already done its part, having spent $1.6 billion on state trooper patrols, border cameras, spy planes and other security measures since Abbott took office in 2015. The governor has also deployed the National Guard signed one of the nation's toughest "sanctuary city" bans in 2017.

Texas currently has about 100 miles of barriers along the border with Mexico, which includes walls and fencing.

Asked about the wall in an interview with Corpus Christi television station KIII last week as Trump was in Texas, Abbott said "it's helpful whenever the president comes down" but did not weigh in on the current impasse.

"It's a fact that we have a porous border, it's a fact that we have already a wall in place in certain areas, it's a fact that fencing can work," Abbott said Thursday. "But it's also a fact that we have lost hundreds of Border Patrol agents who had been in the state of Texas who are now elsewhere that make Texas more vulnerable. So there are a lot of resources that Texas needs, and we're gonna make sure that we keep our state secure."

Judy Jackman, of Amarillo, tried leading a chant of "Build a Wall!" in the crowd before the inauguration began Tuesday. She said she was a little disappointed that Abbott didn't mention a wall in his address but said those around her still supported him.

"I think it will be a big topic," she said. "I don't know why it wasn't today."

———

Associated Press Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.

———

Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber