McConnell on Border Wall Funding: 'Well, We're--We're Talking About It'

By Susan Jones | November 28, 2018 | 4:44am EST
Republican Senate leaders hold a news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 27, 2018. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

( - At the top of his Tuesday news conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters what he plans to do in the current lame duck session, but he did not specifically mention immigration or funding for President Trump's promised border wall until a reporter specifically asked him about it.

"We have to deal with the following things over the next three weeks -- nominations, year-end funding, the Saudi-Yemen issue," McConnell said in his opening remarks.

He said the Senate will be briefed on the war in Yemen Wednesday by the Secretaries of State and Defense: "And then there's some effort on behalf of some of our members to trigger a vote on a resolution related to the War Powers Act," McConnell added.


He also mentioned the criminal justice reform bill: "We'll be whipping that to see...what the consensus is, if there is a consensus in our conference about not only the substance, but the timing of moving forward with that particular piece of legislation."

Later, after reporters asked McConnell about a bill protecting the special counsel's investigation and the Khashoggi murder, a reporter brought up wall funding:

"The president seems determined to get $5 billion for the border wall in the year-end spending bill. What can you offer Democrats to get them to agree to that figure?" McConnell was asked.

"Well, we're -- we're talking about it," McConnell replied. "We're trying to get the president the money he would like for the wall. That's part of the year-end funding discussion, which is ongoing, not only among the appropriators, but with the administration as well.

"And we're hoping -- that's one of the many things we've got to wrap up here at the end of the year."

And that was it.

President Trump told Politico on Monday that he is "firm" on his demand that Congress give him $5 billion for a border wall in the upcoming DHS spending bill.  But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats will go no higher than $1.6 billion in Fiscal 2019.

At Tuesday's news conference, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) used his time at the podium to discuss the ongoing crisis at the Southwest border near San Diego, where thousands of Central Americans are waiting to make asylum claims -- or not. As Sunday's rush to the border illustrates, many just want to get into the U.S. any way they can.

Cornyn talked about funding "border security" in the Homeland Security bill:

"And our Democratic colleagues seem to come up with a lot of criticism but have no answer when you ask the question, what are we supposed to do about people breaking through barricades, mobs of people coming into our country illegally and not following the rules? They have absolutely no answer whatsoever.

I think part of the problem is because they look at this like they're looking through a soda straw. They look at what's happening in Tijuana, but they don't see the bigger picture, which is the drug cartels and the transnational criminal organizations that are commodity agnostic. In other words, they don't care who they hurt, who dies in the process, how much poison they import in the United States in terms of illegal drugs. All they're worried about is making money.

All you need to do is look at some of the testimony in the New York trial of El Chapo, head of one of the large drug cartels, to see exactly the kinds of businesses that they engage in, strictly from a profit motive.

So I think we need to look at this from the standpoint of -- of working with Mexico and Central America to try to address this issue. There's a lot of problems obviously in Central America that people are fleeing.

Cornyn thanked Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump administration "for negotiating toward an arrangement whereby people who seek asylum in the United States can wait while their claim is being adjudicated in Mexico."

The senator said the wait-in-Mexico policy "represents a sea change in our relationship with Mexico and a recognition that this is a problem we need to solve together, and I think it's a -- it's a -- it's good news.

"Of course the -- the best solution would be a bipartisan fix of what's broken in our immigration system," he added -- something that Democrats have rejected.

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