While Congress continues to debate ways to re-open the federal government, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, says that border funding has been part of a year-long discussion and should remain a part of a final budget solution.
Through KATV’s “Connect to Congress,” Hill spoke with Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock on Wednesday (Jan. 23) about separating and combining the federal budget with border wall funding.
Roby Brock: Why does a government shutdown have to be tied to border wall funding? Why can’t we just open the government up and restore these government services and have this border funding debate separately? We can walk and chew gum together, I think.
Rep. French Hill: We’ve had discussions on border security and provisions to help the DREAMer Kids now for exactly a year. This time a year ago, Nancy Pelosi used eight hours of floor time to talk about DREAMer protections. And then Chuck Schumer shut the government down over protections for the DREAMers. This is really a continuation of that same topic. During the year, Republicans brought bills in the House that would have border security, protect the DREAMers, improve our immigration system for the long haul and they didn’t pass the House. As we finished the year, that’s where we find ourselves where President Trump is focused on continuing construction of our 25-year plan to put border fence along the southwest border.
And now, he’s offered Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer support for the DREAMers, something they shut the government down over last year exactly a year ago. So, I’m hopeful that means that we’re now negotiating and that we can do what we need to do which is reopen the government, make sure we’re paying our employees appropriately, have a fix for our DREAMer Kids and continue our 25-year effort to secure the southwest border.
Brock: But in this shutdown, there are plenty of federal agencies and plenty of federal workers who are not getting paid that really have no tie whatsoever to border security in the least. Why not open all the other parts of government that are partly shut down and then carry this border funding debate, which seems to be the crux of all the disagreement, carry that on throughout the rest of the year. Why penalize the other parts of government?
Rep. Hill: Well, again as I say, this is a topic that’s been going on a year. On December 21st, the House passed all the funding bills through 09/30/2019 including border wall funding. And Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, blocked that bill using the filibuster from being taken up in the Senate. That’s what started this whole issue once again was the Senate not taking up the House approved 2019 appropriations bills that would have fully funded government. And just last week, House Republicans attempted to amend the continuing resolution put on the floor by House Democrats that would have paid the January 15th pay period and caught up our federal employees so that they’re not inconvenienced by this budget dispute. And we only got six Democrats to vote with us on that measure.
Brock: There was a compromise in place before Christmas as well that Senator McConnell, the leader in the Senate, let some bills go through. There was a unanimous consent vote in the Senate. Then that got altered apparently between the Senate and the House as Speaker Paul Ryan, at the time, brought up a different set of bills there. It seems that some of this does center around the President’s negotiations and the fact that he seemed to have undo the deal that was there before Christmas. You’ve been in business before. You’ve negotiated with people before that tell you one thing, change their mind, and do something else. It’s pretty difficult to negotiate with people like that. How do you negotiate with somebody in good faith?
Rep. Hill: I do think there needs to be good faith on both sides. We need Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump both negotiating in good faith. They both have to trust in a process that leads to an outcome. I think members in both the House and Senate desperately want their leaders to come together and reason together and come up with an appropriate middle ground. And that’s what, I think, Leader McConnell is working on this week. He’s going to bring a measure to the floor that’s open to amendment and see if he can get engagement from Democrats in the Senate to move on this process forward.
Also over here in the House, Steny Hoyer, the number two person in the Democratic conference, disagrees with Nancy Pelosi on border fencing. [Homeland Security Committee] Chairman [Bennie] Thompson disagrees with Nancy Pelosi on border fencing. Collin Peterson, who chairs the agriculture committee, disagrees with her position on border fencing. The Democratic conference here also is going through some soul-searching on what they should recommend of their leadership that they do in working this out with President Trump.
Editor’s note: Hill’s full interview, including specifics of where he thinks border wall funding is needed, will air Sunday on Talk Business & Politics statewide TV program.