WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, today joined CNN New Day to discuss the potential government shutdown.
“We had a hearing yesterday where the head of Customs and Border Patrol, CPB, was describing how much they built and how much more they could build. Frankly, there's an emerging gap between the leaders in the Administration responsible for border security and what they say will be wise investments and the president's grandstanding over demanding $5 billion more. The president keeps mischaracterizing the Democrats as wanting open borders and not being willing to invest in border security and that's not true,” said Senator Coons.
Video and audio available here.
Excerpts from the interview are below:
Sen. Coons on a possible government shutdown: I certainly hope not. The only person who is publicly saying he would be proud to shut down the government is President Trump and that would be a striking last gasp of the government with Republicans in control of both the Senate and the House and the White House.
Sen. Coons on the border wall: Yes, I think that the average American, the average voter, just wishes we would work on problems to solve rather than greater problems to create. But, the reality here is that the vast majority of Democrats have voted for significant increases in border security. The fight we are having here is really more over the symbolism of whether we are going to give President Trump $5 billion more for wall funding when he already got 1.3 billion this year that hasn’t been spent yet for border security. We had a hearing yesterday where the head of Customs and Border Patrol, CPB, was describing how much they built and how much more they could build. Frankly, there's an emerging gap between the leaders in the Administration responsible for border security and what they say will be wise investments and the president's grandstanding over demanding $5 billion more. The president keeps mischaracterizing the Democrats as wanting open borders and not being willing to invest in border security and that's not true.
Sen. Coons on the border wall: We are both old enough to remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall. I think there's broad agreement that in order to make progress on immigration issues we are willing to work in a bipartisan way on improving border security. I think that’s a responsible part of being committed to having secure borders. But not in an unlimited amount and an amount clearly purely for public relations purposes.
More on the wall: I suspect it will be broken the way the last one was, the president will blink and we will end up appropriate some money for the border security, we won’t shut the government down, and we’ll move forward. As someone who’s on the Appropriations Committee, the committee responsible for all the spending decisions, we have made more progress, come farther than at any point in my eight years, and so I know the leadership of both Republicans and Democrats of the Senate and the House is really hopeful we can get past this point without a dramatic shutdown a week before Christmas. There are other things going on here. We just passed a bipartisan farm bill yesterday out of the Senate and we are about to take up and pass a criminal justice bill, and I’m hopeful we will send a strong bipartisan message that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident journalist, by the Saudis is unacceptable. And on Monday, Senator Tillis and I introduced a bill to create a new human rights commission here in the Senate in honor of the late Senator John McCain.
Sen. Coons on the criminal justice reform bill: Because it divides his caucus. There are a number of Republican senators very strongly opposed to any kind of criminal justice reform, but eventually as they were doing in internal whip counts, seeing how many Republican senators favored it or opposed it, the numbers became overwhelming and the majority leader was willing to give this a vote because it already passed the House, because it has support from the White House and because an overwhelming majority of senators both Democrats and Republicans have endorsed this, and it's a bill I co-sponsored and worked on over the last six years. This is an important bipartisan accomplishment.
Sen. Coons on his colleagues’ comments about Michael Cohen: That's sadly a pretty good summary of the overall opinion of most of my colleagues on the other side: I don't care about the president having made hush payments to a porn star just before the election, he's doing a good job. Broadly speaking, many of my colleagues think that between deregulation and tax cuts and a conservative Supreme Court that President Trump has accomplished the policy goals and that should lead us to overlook or forgive a lot of other things that are destabilizing or undermining the law or are flat out illegal.
Sen. Coons on the Democratic Party: As you know, what I have urged my House colleagues and the incoming Democratic majority to do is to take up and pass a series of strong broad bills, that would reduce the cost of health care, co-pays and deductibles, and would improve the quality of health care and would create more high-paying good quality jobs through investing in infrastructure, that would address the opioid crisis in a broader and more meaningful way, put those on the table, push them over to the Senate and say let's get real things done to help the average American, and call the question, see if we are able to get things done on a bipartisan basis. There are issues that deserve investigation and I am confident that Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee will hold the president accountable for a number of issues that we just talked about.
More on legislating: I would say start by showing that we are committed to legislating in a responsible and bipartisan way on the issues that I hear in Delaware affect the average American, that’s what they want us to do. The average American doesn't want impeachment and shutdown, they want progress and solutions. And it's our job to hold the president accountable and improve the transparency of the administration, but I think our first job is to make sure it's clear we are willing to legislate in a responsible fashion that addresses the real problems the average American is waking up this morning saying how can I possibly afford health care for my ailing mother, how can I afford retirement, and how can I afford to send my kid on to college if he finishes high school, and how can I pay the health care bills? That's the sort of thing the average American sitting around their breakfast table before they head off to work and school is struggling with, and that's what they want to see us do in Washington, not more bickering and fighting.