Trump Threatens Government Shutdown Over Border Wall Funding
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump says he is determined to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and he will shut down the government this month unless Congress pays for it. The president hosted a televised meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer yesterday. He said he would be proud to shut down the government unless he gets, quote, "what we want, one way or the other."
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NANCY PELOSI: We're coming in in good faith to negotiate with you about how we can keep the government...
CHUCK SCHUMER: Open.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to keep it open if we have border security.
TRUMP: If we don't have border security, Chuck...
PELOSI: I'm with you.
TRUMP: ...We're not going to keep it open.
PELOSI: I'm with you. We are going to have border security.
SCHUMER: And it's the same border - you're bragging about what has been done.
TRUMP: By us.
SCHUMER: We want to do the same thing we did last year, this year. That's our proposal. If it's good then, it's good now, and it won't shut down the government.
INKSEEP: Just part of that meeting. Part of the government would shut down unless Congress passes spending measures by December 21. Our next guest is among those charged with that responsibility. Warren Davidson is a Republican from Ohio's 8th Congressional District.
Congressman, welcome back to the program.
WARREN DAVIDSON: Good morning, Steve.
INKSEEP: Thanks for coming into our studios early. Really appreciate it.
What do you think of the president saying that he is proud to take responsibility for a shutdown?
DAVIDSON: Well, I think it shows he's got a resolve to do something about border security. I mean, he campaigned strongly on border security. You know, frankly, a lot of times, the conversation degenerates into just about a wall. But it is a much broader problem than whether we secure it with a wall or technology or whatever. But the only people that really should care whether the border - what's at the border are people that are planning to enter illegally. And the dialogue needs to be more about - how do you come to America illegally?
INKSEEP: Well, we should be clear. There are lots of other people who say they have interests there - property owners along the border; people worried about relations with Mexico, on and on; people worried about government spending. But isn't it correct that this is largely in Republicans' control? It's a lame-duck session. You still have control of both houses of Congress. You guys can do what you want.
DAVIDSON: Well, you can pass what you want in the House. But as the president has made clear over and over again and as we've seen inaction after inaction in the Senate, you need 10 folks right now in the nature of the way the Senate's...
INKSEEP: Oh, because you need to get...
DAVIDSON: To get 60 votes.
INKSEEP: ...Sixty votes in the Senate.
DAVIDSON: And you know, we've got 700 bills that have passed the House, a lot of them good bills - some of them 400-plus votes in the House - not partisan. But you can't get the senators to move.
INKSEEP: Nancy Pelosi has said you can't even get this spending bill through the House because there is Republican opposition. On both sides is people who are saying you're spending too much, people who are saying you're spending too little. Is that correct?
DAVIDSON: I don't think it - well, in total spending, absolutely we're spending too much. I mean, we're on a path to bankrupting the country. But separately, the wall is not the reason that we're spending too much. And frankly, how we secure the border isn't. And you know, the opposition from Democrats that want to throw this fig leaf out about whether it's a wall or not, the reality is they don't want to deal with the asylum law, they don't want to deal with how to make people be here legally, and they don't want to work to support ICE in enforcing the border as it is.
INKSEEP: We should clarify what you're saying. The Democrats have been willing to spend some money on border security, which is a broader category than a big concrete wall necessarily. It might include technology, sensors and things like that. I believe the president himself has sometimes used the phrase border security. And both sides have a couple billion dollars on the table - or $5 billion in the president's case. But why are we even talking about this when the president said Mexico was going to pay for the wall?
DAVIDSON: Well, I've offered a modest compromise called Buy a Brick, Build a Wall (ph) that we introduced, which lets the American people, or whomever should choose to donate - Mexicans or otherwise - to donate to the program.
INKSEEP: You mean like this highway is adopted by a certain organization? You could buy a part of the wall?
DAVIDSON: Sort of. You could do with this sort of, like, crowdfunding site. Or you could even do blockchain, and you could have wall coins. But you could raise the money. And frankly, if we get it right at the Treasury, you could even accept Mexican pesos.
INKSEEP: But what the president is saying is American taxpayers need to put down $5 billion right now or I will shut down the government.
DAVIDSON: Well - and to be clear, not all of that is for the wall. But there are areas that you would want to secure with a wall. And if you look at the areas where you have secured them with walls, 5 billion isn't going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China. I mean, this is going to build secure fences, which was incredibly bipartisan when it was called the Secure Fences Act. But you know, the short span of time - you've seen the clips - of Democratic leader after Democratic leader who formerly supported this - but now that the president has made it a key trademark of his administration is to secure the border, they're somehow magically opposed to it.
INKSEEP: I want to ask about one aspect of the president's legal troubles. And I'm sure you have been following the investigation by the special counsel into Russian interference in the 2016 election, this separate investigation involving two women who were paid off on behalf of the president before the election. There's one aspect of this that's on my mind. And that is that there's a variety of false statements that have been confessed to now. And it appears that the president himself has been less than truthful, to say the least, about how deep the contacts with Russia were, for example. And then we get into this budget debate, and he says, I will shut down the government. I have no idea whether to believe him or not. How damaging is it that the president says all kinds of things and it's hard to know whether it's true or not?
DAVIDSON: Well, the president's a very effective negotiator. I mean, he's shifted his positions. Part of the reason he's an effective negotiator is you're not exactly sure - would he? And he's done enough things that you go - you know, he might actually be willing to do that. And frankly...
INKSEEP: Or he might just be blustering when he says, I will shut down the government. And you can just assume he's going to compromise. Like, you can't...
DAVIDSON: Well, that's the nature...
INKSEEP: ...Know what he's saying.
DAVIDSON: ...Of negotiations. Is the person bluffing or not? And the reality is the Democrats, I think, could show that they really are a "America First" party just like Republicans. And we are going to secure our border. It's an 80 percent issue with the American people. The people want a secure border. Citizenship has to matter. And that's what's at stake here. It's really an identity issue. Does my identity as an American citizen matter, or is it completely irrelevant? And the Democrats have taken the position that we want no distinction. We just want to accept everybody and treat them all as if citizenship isn't an issue. They want to count them that way in the census. They want to have the voting move towards that direction. And we are seeing...
INKSEEP: Well, we should...
DAVIDSON: ...Open-border radicals take over the Democratic Party.
INKSEEP: Well, we should be clear about that. People are not advocating open borders...
DAVIDSON: They don't say it publicly.
INKSEEP: ...On the Democratic side.
INKSEEP: They differ with you, and they certainly are not urging noncitizens to vote at this time. But they do want noncitizens to be counted because they're part of the population in the millions.
One other thing I want to ask about very briefly before I let you go, Congressman - some people will know you're a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a more conservative group - a very influential group of conservatives in the House. Your group's leader, Mark Meadows, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for White House chief of staff. Is that a good idea?
DAVIDSON: I think he'd be a tremendous chief of staff. I'd hate to see him out of the House. He's been a very effective member of the House and I'm sure will continue to be if he stays here. But I feel like he would be a tremendous asset for the president. And he understands the dynamics inside Congress very well. And frankly, he has tremendously good relationships with folks throughout the administration.
INKSEEP: Would he be divisive? I mean, a chief of staff is supposed to be practical and get things done.
DAVIDSON: I think that's part of the reason Mark's been so effective. I mean, he's got a brand. People know that he's a conservative. But they also know he's a leader. And he's been able to work to get things accomplished.
INKSEEP: Congressman, thanks for coming by again. It's always a pleasure to talk with you. Really appreciate it.
DAVIDSON: Thanks, Steve.
INKSEEP: Warren Davidson is a Republican representative from the 8th District of Ohio.
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