April 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Sunday the proposed wall along the United States-Mexico border could be paid for by reducing erroneously issued tax credits that the former Alabama senator claimed go to "mostly Mexicans."
"We're going to get paid for it one way or the other," Sessions said on ABC's This Week. "I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago, that are going to payments to people -- tax credits that they shouldn't get. Now, these are mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up -- $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion.
In a July 2011 report, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration determined individuals who are not authorized to work in the U.S. had been paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits. It did not mention Mexicans or any other nationalities.
"The Department of Treasury, several years ago, under the Obama administration, said that if you change the regulations and enforced it properly, you would save up to $4 billion a year," he said.
"There are other things that we can do at the border to create revenue that would pay for the wall. There's no doubt about that."
Sessions said he doesn't expect the Mexican government to "appropriate money" for the wall but "we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue to pay for it."
During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised Mexico will pay for the wall.
"Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall," he posted Sunday on Twitter.
Figures vary on the cost to build the wall. An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security said it could cost about $21.6 billion, not including maintenance. The Democratic staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee pegged the build cost at $70 billion.
Democrats vigorously oppose funds for a border wall in a new spending bill. The government will shut down at midnight Friday if Congress cannot agree on one.
In the Senate, Republicans hold a 52-to-48 advantage over the Democratic caucus. But Senate Republicans must get 60 votes to pass legislation.
"I can't imagine the Democrats would shut down the government over an objection to building a down payment on a wall that can end the lawlessness," Sessions said.
"Our goal is not to reduce it 50, 60, 70 percent but to end illegality, create a lawful system of immigration where people apply to come here, they wait their turn."
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump might refuse to sign a government spending bill that does not include money for the wall.
"We don't know yet," Mulvaney said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. "I'm not going to negotiate with you on national television. We will negotiate with the Democrats."
"I think that as long as the president's priorities are adequately reflected ... and there's enough as far as flexibility for the border wall and border security, I think we'll be OK with that," he said.
Priebus said the administration expects "the priorities of the president to be reflected" in a budget.
"We expect a massive increase in military spending, we expect money for border security in this bill, and it ought to be because the president won overwhelmingly and everyone understood that the border wall was part of it," he said.