Republican Conferees Skip 'Wall' Talk, Emphasize 'Other Things' That Need to Be Funded at Border

By Susan Jones | January 30, 2019 | 4:54am EST
A House Appropriations conference committee begins negotiating border security today (Wednesday), and the emphasis does not appear to be on a "wall." (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

( - President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, "If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!"

That tweet came one day after a news conference on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans brought out two of their members who sit on the border security conference committee.

But neither of those two Republicans said anything about a wall. One of them mentioned a "barrier" in passing, but the emphasis was on "other things that need to be funded."


Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) echoed the Democrats' call for more technology, personnel, and "evidence"-based solutions.

Granger expressed the hope that the committee can "come together" on funding the Homeland Security Department and agree "that our borders need additional help to secure."

So, if we talk about the funding in those fields; things like upgraded technology, personnel to help stop the flow of illegal drugs and weapons, canines that could be used to--to find those drugs, hiring of additional border agents, law enforcement and staff to keep the Border Patrol ready to carry out their mission; the mission that exists today, not just 10 and 20 years ago, money to support our immigration court system, all of these things. We've had experts that are there saying we need additional money and support--hiring new immigration judge teams, reduce the immigration court backlog.

And then also funding for the humanitarian assistance; medical support, temporary housing for the most vulnerable, like the women and children who are victims of human trafficking; all of these things, we see at the border and we've heard from our experts that are so important.

So, as we talk about things like barriers, let's also remember that there are other things that need to be funded and I think we can all come together. I look forward to our first conference being tomorrow, and I hope we can all work together in a very positive way to find solutions. Thank you.

The second conferee, Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), was less specific than Granger was, but he never mentioned a wall, either.

I look forward to working with the Republican Leader of Appropriations, Miss Granger, on this effort. I'm very optimistic about it," Graves said.

We're entering what I would consider a new phase of this discussion. A conference committee is where this should be taking place and this is where we do resolve our differences, and--and--and work together. So, over the next 17 days, I'm very hopeful that my 16 colleagues and myself can come together.

We can bridge our differences, based on facts, based on evidence, based on experts, but also based on a common objective, and that's to end the humanitarian and security concerns along the border, all the while keeping our government open, and I know we can do that.

Now this is a group of very good people. These are people that Miss Granger and I work with on a daily basis, and I trust that my fellow appropriators who are on this conference committee are as committed as I am to just rolling up our sleeves and working through this together towards a solution.

But to be clear, this is not about one person winning and another person losing. This is a discussion about providing the necessary resources to best secure our homeland; that is it, nothing more and nothing less. So, this is our moment. Take a deep breath, step back, renew our efforts and find areas of agreement.

And I know this morning, there are likely to be a lot of questions about what the president may or may not do; what actions he may or may not take as it relates to emergency declarations and such, but I'm not willing to accept failure at this point. This is--we have an opportunity here over the next 17 days to work through this.

Although neither Granger nor Graves focused on a wall or barrier, House Republicans leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise did use the word "wall."

"President Trump has been committed to this goal from the beginning," Scalise said. "He campaigned on securing our border, which includes physical barriers like a wall." Scalise said.

McCarthy identified various Democrats who have called a border wall part of the solution.

"You know, the wall or the barrier does a lot of things to protect our country," McCarthy said.  "It also protects many of those who need the protection. When you look at what has happened across this border when it comes to human trafficking, the number of individuals who've been stopped, that is such a small price to pay for such a long-term benefit."

A reporter asked McCarthy if he would insist on having the word "wall" in the conference report.

"It could be barrier. It doesn't have be a wall," McCarthy answered.

Another reporter noted that Rep. Granger's description of border security was "almost literally word for word with what Democrats just said in their press conference. It includes technology. It includes personnel. It includes, you know, drug sensors at ports of entry. It could include some kind of physical barrier, like literally almost word for word."

"So the conference could be very good, then," McCarthy joked.

How do you sell such a plan to people who want a wall? the reporter wondered.

"Well, what definition do you want to call it, a wall or a barrier?" McCarthy responded. "Having come from California, I understand how that works. I also understand the benefits of it, just like El Paso, just like Yuma, Arizona and others, where illegal crossings have dropped more than 95 percent. If the Democrats are beginning to discuss barriers, that's a positive in all shapes and forms because that's not something they'd been saying ahead of time.

"The other things that you talked about--that Congresswoman Granger talked about--are the things we had been talking about, but these were all the things inside these meetings that we went time and time again with--and hours that they would say, 'I can't do that until the government's open.' So, at the end of the day, we do not want status quo. We want a solution, and I think all of those elements include--as long--as well we have a barrier?"

McCarthy said lawmakers "should listen to the experts and the experts have told us; that's where they came up with the $5.7 billion. You've got to have barriers in places where there's challenging area. You can use, yes, new technology and we do. We want to continue to expand that. But if you do not have barriers, you just have an open door for individuals to come across in these wide, swaths of areas that aren't controllable."

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