WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) questioned Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on why Democrats refused to vote to pay federal workers as negotiations continued. Whip Scalise also pointed out Several House Democrats—including Leader Hoyer—have acknowledged that a physical barrier is a necessary part of any solution to secure our southern border, yet Democrats still haven’t proposed an alternative to the President’s numerous offers.
Please see highlights from the colloquy below.
On President Trump’s multiple compromise offers that Speaker Pelosi has continuously refused:
“So far we have not seen a single counteroffer from the majority. In fact, when the President spoke to the nation, at 4:07 P.M.—before the President even walked to the microphone at 4:07 P.M.—at 4:00 P.M. the Speaker of the House had already put out a statement opposing the plan that hadn’t even been presented.
“What I’d like to ask the Majority Leader is, if we’re trying to get a resolution, if the President continues to try to lay out alternatives, if the president’s latest alternative wasn’t even offered until 4:07 P.M., why did the Speaker of the House already reject it before it was even presented? Is there an actual desire to work together to solve the problem or is the answer going to continue to be no alternative, no alternative? At some point we have got to get an agreement on how to solve this problem.”
“President Trump isn’t the one who said, I need $5.7 billion to secure the border; our experts at the Department of Homeland Security, who risk their lives to keep our country safe, said it’s going to take $5.7 billion to secure the border. We can all talk about border security, but at some point, you have to put the dollars behind the rhetoric.
“When the department says we need $5.7 billion, if your side thinks that there is some lesser amount that it’s going to take to keep our country safe, then put the amount of money on the table. So far, the only offer that’s been put on the table by the Speaker of the House—she said a dollar, and she laughed about it. A dollar. That’s the only offer that’s been put on the table. It’s not a joking matter. And a dollar is not going to secure America’s border. So what amount will the other side agree to?
“When the President of the United States looked at the Speaker and said, ‘OK, I’ll tell you what. We disagree on a lot of this, but I’ll agree to keep the government open even with the things I disagree with for the next 30 days, if at the end of that 30 days you’re willing to negotiate with me on the wall and the border security.’ And the Speaker of the House said, ‘No.’
“She said no to that offer from the President. She wants to keep everybody hostage. She wants to keep the pay of workers hostage. In fact, now the Speaker of the House wants to keep the State of the Union hostage. How ludicrous is that?”
“In fact, that agreement and that offer went out on January 3. The speaker sent a letter to the President inviting him to come here in this chamber and address the State of the Union next Tuesday. The President accepted that offer. The Speaker of the House this time, for the first time in the history of our country rescinded the offer, took it back. She doesn’t want the people of this country to hear what the President has to say about the security of this country. Maybe the Speaker of the House doesn’t want the country to hear the President’s message. But you know what, the people of this country want to hear the President’s message and deserve that opportunity.
“Who is holding who hostage? Look at some of the votes. We had a vote today on the House floor to pay everybody, to pay everybody who’s worked or who’s been furloughed. Those people that are securing our border today without pay, they ought to get paid and we ought to vote on the House floor. We almost got there, 200-214. Every Republican voted yes. Thirteen Democrats voted yes.
“Last week, only six Democrats voted yes. The good news is a growing number of Democrats are recognizing they’ve got to be willing to work to solve this problem and pay people who have worked. We’ve had those votes on the House floor. You talk about opening government. You talk about bills you brought to the House floor that we voted against. You talk about the Senate bills that were passed.
“At the beginning, the first week of this new majority, when you brought a bill to the floor to fund what was presented as the Senate bills, some of those bills had passed the Senate, but not all of them. In fact, one of those bills would not have passed the Senate because it would have allowed taxpayer funding to go to foreign government entities who provide abortion. Let’s get this right, and let the record reflect that you were willing to bring a bill to the floor a few weeks ago that allows taxpayer money to go to fund abortion in foreign countries, but you wouldn’t put a dime in that bill to secure America’s border.
“There was not a dime of money from the President’s request to secure America’s border, but taxpayer money went to fund abortion in foreign countries. Sure, I voted no on that because that’s not the values of this country. Let’s be serious about this.”
“The President said, ‘I’m willing to negotiate and let you ban cement walls.’ The President said he’s willing to do that. Right now, the experts are saying steel slats is the best approach. The Majority Leader himself just a few days ago said, and I quote, ‘Physical barriers are part of the solution.’ I think we’re making headway. If the Majority Leader agrees that physical barriers are part of the solution, maybe because the Speaker is saying that walls are immoral. … The gentleman from Maryland and I agree on enhancing port security.
“We have points of entry all around our country. If you want to come here and seek asylum, if you want to come here and just be part of the American dream like over a million people we let in, we have that. We need to bulk up [security]. There is a lot we can do with technology.
“You don’t put a door on your House and then leave the windows open. Who would do that? Who would call that security of your house? The president is saying, ‘We have over 500 miles of area in our country that’s not secure.’ We have a big door. We will strengthen the door, but then you’ll leave 500 miles wide open. Then, you’re going to wonder why people are coming in illegally.
“If we’re for border security, it’s going to cost something to actually back that up. I would ask the gentleman, what amount is the majority willing to put on the table for real border security, which includes physical barriers? And I quote you again, ‘Physical barriers are part of the solution.’ I agree with the gentleman from Maryland on that. But I guess maybe the question I have is, the experts have told us it’s going to cost $5.7 billion to build that physical barrier. How much of that $5.7 billion is the gentleman willing to support?”
On Senate Democrats’ role in obstruction and Democrat leaders’ blocking of fellow Democrats who would like to compromise on a solution:
“I’ll read the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Collin Peterson, Democrat from Minnesota. Quote, ‘Give trump the money. I’d give him the whole thing and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We’re going to build a wall anyway at some time.’
“Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, quote, ‘The wall is not in itself a bad idea. It’s just – it’s been done.’ Cheri Bustos from Illinois, quote, ‘If we have a partial wall, if we have fencing, if we have technology used to keep our borders safe, all of that is fine.’
“We see a growing list of rank-and-file Democrats and even committee chairmen that are saying let’s just do this. Yet the Speaker refuses to do it. The President invited some members of the Democrat majority in the House to the White House. The first meeting, some of them didn’t even show up. We want to talk about civility?
“We’re in a shut down and the President of the United States says, ‘I want to bring some Democrats in to see if we can resolve this.’ They don’t even show up. Maybe they were told not to go.
“A few days later, the President invites a different group. In that group we actually did have some members that went. The gentleman from Maryland, that day, was on a TV show and when they asked if those Democrats going to the White House had the authority to negotiate, the Majority Leader of the House said, quote, ‘They do not have the authority to strike a deal.’
“Now the Democrat majority is telling other Democrats, who want to solve the problem and are going to the White House to try to solve the problem, he’s telling them they don’t have the authority to solve the problem. If Mr. Majority Leader, if the gentleman from Maryland is telling other Democrats they don’t have the authority to strike a deal, I would ask the gentleman, who does have the authority to strike a deal?
“You are saying that, quote, ‘Physical barriers are part of the solution.’ The Speaker of the House doesn’t necessarily share that view from the comments I have heard from her, but if the gentleman from Maryland thinks physical borders are part of the solution, other Democrats want to negotiate a solution. Who is authorized? Who does have the authority to strike a deal?”
“You wonder why people look and go, ‘Why can’t you figure it out?’ The President has offered idea after idea and eventually you’re negotiating against yourself when the other side says, ‘We’re not going to talk until we get everything we want.’ Well, you know what in divided government, nobody gets everything they want.
“But you have to start talking today. The 800,000 people who are working or not working and not getting paychecks, which we voted again today to pay all of them. We had a vote on the House floor to pay all of them and we got 13 Democrats to vote for that.
“Last week it was only six. A growing number of Democrats are recognizing, stop all of this foolishness of saying, ‘We’re not going to talk to you when the President’s trying to talk. We’re going to reject your offer before you put it on the table.’
“4:00 Saturday, the Speaker rejected an offer that wasn’t even proposed until 4:07. To say, quote, ‘We’re not going to talk while we’re in the shutdown,’ how do we get out of the shutdown unless people are talking? I think the gentleman from Maryland and I could solve this problem. He [said], ‘Physical barriers are part of the solution.’
“I agree with the gentleman from Maryland on that. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House doesn’t agree with that. If rank-and-file Democrats who want to solve this problem are invited to the White House but told by the Democrat leadership, ‘You’re not authorized to negotiate,’ I ask the gentleman from Maryland, who is authorized to negotiate?
“The gentleman from Maryland says, ‘We’re not going to talk until the government’s back open.’ But the government’s not open because we’re at an impasse. And the way you solve an impasse is to talk.
“You can’t say we’re not going to talk and expect it just to solve itself, expect the President just to keep offering and offering and offering and the Speaker of the House say, ‘We are not going to let you talk to the country. We are not going to let you have a State of the Union. My way or the highway.’ That’s not how you solve this problem. You have to talk to solve this problem. The country expects you to talk to solve this problem. It’s divided government. Sure, we’re not going to agree on everything.
“It’s not the Republican Party saying $5.7 billion is what it will cost to secure our border. It’s the experts who secure our border who say it’s going to cost $5.7 billion. If you disagree with that number, you don’t like the color of the wall or the style of the slats and the steel, you want to make it out of bamboo—I don’t know what your offer is because you never put an offer on the table—but at some point, you have to. You have to put a counteroffer on the table if we’re going to get out of this.
“I want to get out of this. I voted multiple times to get out of it, to pay people. You know, you can show votes. I can show votes. Ultimately, we need to talk to get an agreement. I continue to stand ready. The President stands ready. Our minority here in the House, our majority in the Senate stands ready. But if only one side is saying we’re going to talk and the other side says, and I quote, ‘We’re not going to talk,’ that’s not going to resolve itself.
“We have to talk if it’s going to resolve itself and hopefully we do. I stand ready.”