COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Lawmakers are talking and working in Washington for now, but will the bitter divide between congressional Democrats and the White House be too much to overcome as another government shutdown looms?
Talks started last week on the best way to get the government funded, block another shutdown and reach an agreement on what to do about border security. However, as a small group of lawmakers looks for a path forward, other lawmakers dig in their heels.
During the first meeting of the 17-member bipartisan committee, both Democrats and Republicans spoke optimistically about their chances for success. But outside the meeting, a political battle over border security is being waged with neither side showing signs of budging.
President Donald Trump said if there’s no funding for his long-promised border wall, there will be no deal, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already said that additional funding for the wall is out of the question.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) said the wall is key to making American communities safer.
“Drug trafficking, human trafficking, gangs, sex trafficking…those issues end up on our city streets,” she said.
But Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) said hiring more officers and boosting technology offers more promise than the president’s plan.
“Most of these stories that have been told by the president are just fantasies,” he said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is afraid that even if Democrats cave and give Trump the requested $5 billion for the wall, the president will turn around and shut the government down again when he wants even more money for it.
“The commander-in-chief can’t run a government by having one campaign promise…and consistently shut the government down until Congress coughs up enough money,” Brown said, pointing out that while on the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall. “I won’t be part of that.”
Brown said the money would be better spent by earmarking some of the funds for increased border security and using the rest for things that need taken care of across the country like infrastructure.
However, Republicans, including central Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers, have said there can be no deal unless Trump gets some funding for the wall. Still, Stivers remains optimistic about the two sides coming together.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’m pushing our side of the aisle to be able to make a deal,” he said. “We need to find a compromise where both sides give a little.”
Stivers believes that a physical barrier is a necessary component of keeping the border secure.
“ There are some places like the Rio Grande River that has water and then a cliff where we have a natural barrier, and there are other places in the middle of the desert where there is no barrier unless you create one yourself,” he said. “That should be part of the negotiation.”