Paul Ingrassia on February 14, 2019
Republican senators were mixed in their opinions on securing border wall funding Thursday, with some calling a national emergency necessary and others saying Congress should just “do its job” to come to a solution.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott said a formal national emergency declaration was a necessary consideration given the reality of congressional gridlock and the growing demands by conservatives to see the wall built.
He also expressed frustration toward his Democratic colleagues.
“I think all of us are frustrated because the Democrats keep saying they care about border security, but they don’t do it,” Scott said. “They don’t care. They don’t care about keeping people safe. They don’t care about Border Patrol agents. They’ve got to go down there and talk to them.”
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner similarly criticized Democrats on the border issue, saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “said not one dollar would go to border barriers.”
“This deal has money in it for border barriers so she broke her promise to her caucus,” he added.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing — I think Congress should [instead] do its job,” Gardner said when pressed on whether Trump should opt for a national emergency to ensure funding for the border wall.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins took a hardline stance against the White House’s strategy, maintaining that a national emergency “would be a mistake.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also said lawmakers shouldn’t support a national emergency.
“I don’t think we should do it that way,” he said.
Republican senators on the whole stressed the importance of border security, while hedging talk of physical barriers and a national emergency.
When discussing this position with the expectations of conservative voters, many of whom are agitating for a physical barrier, a handful of senators emphasize the positive aspects of the appropriations deal.
“Well if [Trump] signs the bill, he’ll get 55 miles right away, which is a good start,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman told TheDCNF. “I think he can find funding elsewhere without declaring a national emergency by reprogramming. That’d be better.”
Still, others tried to negotiate a third way, believing the appropriations bill to be an adequate, if incomplete, start in the right direction for eventually securing the border.
Discussing the contents of the appropriations bill, which would allot $1.37 billion to border security — short of the $5.7 billion originally requested by the White House — Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who was part of the 17-member panel that worked out the compromise, spoke promisingly of the deal, saying it’s the best way forward on border security.
“I talked to the President last night, I talked to the Vice President about two hours ago. He seemed upbeat and lively about everything. I didn’t ask him how he’d do on the bill,” Shelby told us. “I just told him I had signed the conference report and it was a down payment — it was not everything I wanted, and I’m not sure it wasn’t everything he wanted but it was a lot more than we had last week when I walked down.”
“Probably,” he said, responding to a question on whether a national emergency declaration is necessary. “But I’ll have to see what it is [because] I think we have to secure the border.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn had a more candid response to border security talks.
“This is what you get when you have a dysfunctional negotiations between the executive branch and the legislature.”
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