CNN host tells Democratic lawmaker that not giving in to Trump's border wall demand is “just not working”

Alisyn Camerota: It “makes sense that you wouldn't want to” negotiate during the government shutdown, but “the president isn't budging.”  

From the January 23 edition of CNN's New Day:

Video file

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, today we're going to be bringing to the floor a series of bills that have been negotiated on a bipartisan basis by Democrats and Republicans connected to conference committee discussions or conference-level discussions between the House and the Senate that will reopen every other aspect of government that has been recklessly shut down, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which we'll deal with tomorrow. However, in these bills that we're bringing to the House floor today, we have $1.5 billion in border security measures, $500 billion for immigration judges that Trump and his administration have said are necessary to process migrants and others at the border. $500 billion in additional infrastructure to help at legal ports of entry as well as another $500 billion in humanitarian and other forms of assistance to the Central American northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras -- 

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): But no money for a barrier? 

JEFFRIES: What we're going to deal with the Homeland Security funding on Thursday. This is additional funding that we, as Democrats, are saying we support as part of the effort to increase border security, but the initial premise is that we have to reopen the government before we can have a mature, and thoughtful, and bipartisan conversation about border security. We can't be in the midst of a hostage crisis where you have 800,000 plus public employees being hurt, families being hurt, farmers being hurt, small businessmen being hurt, and others being hurt because of this reckless shutdown. 

CAMEROTA: Everyone understands that logic, that -- that makes sense that you wouldn't want to do it during the shutdown, but that's just not working. The president isn't budging. And so, you know, there's this letter -- a draft letter that has been circulated by centrist Democrats who believe that one way out of the impasse, since the president's not budging on the government shutdown, is to make a promise to the president that if he were to open the government today that you all would agree to debate the border wall and border security funding by a date certain in early February and that that might be one way to break the impasse. Do you agree with that draft letter that we've seen? 

JEFFRIES: Well, I actually haven't seen that draft letter but I agree with the first part of the letter, which is reopen the government and then let's have a mature conversation about border security, a broken immigration system, comprehensive immigration reform, and debate it in a full and robust fashion. In fact, the continuing resolution that will go to the floor on Thursday will allow for just that. It will extend funding at last year's levels through, I believe, February 28th. Reopen the government and allow for us to have a conversation. And, Alisyn, I would also suggest that we have seen some movement. Finally Mitch McConnell has decided to emerge from the witness protection program and at least put some pieces of legislation on the floor of the United States Senate.

CAMEROTA: But they're not going to pass. I mean, understood, but those aren't expected to pass.

JEFFRIES: Well, I don't think that the president's proposal is going to pass. But I still think that there’s opportunity for the Democratic-backed proposal that has some bipartisan support to perhaps get over the finish line. We'll have to see what occurs on Thursday. 

CAMEROTA: But would you be willing to have a date certain to, by the end of the month, vote on something? That's what I think the letter is saying. In order to break the impasse you have to give the president something. Open government and we will have a vote on this by the end of the month. 

JEFFRIES: Well I think that those are decisions that are made at a different level with the speaker and the chairperson of the Rules Committees and the chairs of the relevant committees. I do think that we are suggesting a date certain, which is a continuing resolution rather than just reopen the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, which would be September 30. We’re willing to say let's put in a date certain, February 28th, in the legislation we are putting forward on Thursday so we have an opportunity to negotiate. And if the president feels like he needs a deadline to threaten to shut down the government again, we believe that's a reckless approach, but we’re willing to say we'll move forward so that within a tight time frame we can have a window of opportunity to have a discussion. 


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