Pelosi pans Trump’s $20B wall funding ask: ‘Oh, come on’
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday spurned President Trump’s $20 billion request for a border wall, suggesting Democrats in the lower chamber would oppose that figure even if it ensured a deal to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“All of the money he wants for his wall? Oh, come on, come on, come on,” Pelosi said at a press briefing in the Capitol.
Pelosi was reacting to a new ABC News report on a possible deal between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) combining $20 billion in border wall funding with strong legal protections for DACA recipients, immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
Pelosi suggested she’s open to new wall funding — a shift in tone for the Democratic leader — but also emphasized that any such amount should be determined by the expressed need of border authorities, not a figure floated by the president, which she suggested is arbitrary.
“We all have a responsibility to protect our borders, north and south. There’s no question about that. So what do we need to do that? Why don’t we have an appraisal of what that should be,” Pelosi said.
“Should there be fencing? Should there be technology? Should they mow the grass so that people can’t hide in it? Should there be some bricks and mortar someplace?
Republicans have attacked the Democrats’ opposition to new wall construction, noting that a number of prominent Democratic lawmakers had endorsed new funding in an immigration package passed by the Senate in 2013. (House GOP leaders never took it up.)
Pelosi acknowledged that past support, but was quick to draw a distinction: Democrats are willing to support a host of tougher security measures in a comprehensive immigration reform bill, like the 2013 proposal, that addresses the fate of the 11 million people in the country illegally. But they’re not open to all of those same enforcement provisions as part of a DACA fix, which deals with just a sliver of that population.
“There was much more of a commitment to more border infrastructure [in 2013], but we were protecting 11 million people,” she said. “This is in the hundreds of thousands. … You’re on the wrong path if you think the $20 billion” will win Democrats’ support.
The comments arrive on Day Two of the government shutdown, with the parties stuck in a deadlock over how to proceed and each side digging in and waiting for the other to blink.
Congress has passed three short-term funding patches since October, and the Democrats are rejecting a fourth unless it’s accompanied by a deal on DACA. Trump and the Republicans, meanwhile, are refusing to discuss a DACA fix before the government reopens.
The sides seemed to make some progress on the immigration impasse Friday night, when Senate GOP leaders agreed to stage a vote by Feb. 8 on a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), that couples DACA protections with tougher border security efforts. The bill faces stiff headwinds, however, after Trump rejected the proposal last week, siding with conservative immigration hawks who deem it too soft on enforcement.
But Pelosi and House Democrats say a Senate vote is not enough of an assurance, in their eyes, to secure DACA. They also want a promise from House GOP leaders that the bill will get a vote in the lower chamber, too.
“It would have to be a vote in the House and the Senate,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said Democrats are fine with a stand-alone DACA fix, as GOP leaders are insisting, as opposed to attaching the immigration piece to a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill — but with one condition.
“You have to do it first,” she said.
Democrats have long opposed any funding for new border wall construction, arguing there are more effective and efficient ways to deflect illegal crossings. But with both sides dug in over the fate of DACA recipients — and the government shuttered since Saturday morning — even some of the most ardent wall opponents say they’ll now grant Trump his wall funding if it secures a fix for the program.
“I’ll take a bucket, take bricks, and start building it myself,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Saturday.
There are mixed messages coming from the White House about the importance — and the wisdom — of building Trump’s promised wall. While the president has pressed hard to make good on his most prominent campaign vow, his chief of staff, John Kelly, told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) last week that Trump as a candidate was “uninformed” about the feasibility of erecting a physical barrier spanning the border. It’s a message CHC leaders haven’t forgotten as the DACA standoff continues this week.
“Until we see something from the White House, and they’re very clear in language from the Senate, there’s really nothing to react to,” Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), head of the CHC, said Sunday. “Because the last contact we had with Kelly is [him saying], ‘That wouldn’t make any sense, a wall, whatsoever.’ And that’s the last statement that he made.”
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