WASHINGTON — For U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown — Dec. 21 — is “a lifetime away.”
“I think the president is a good negotiator. We’ll see how he comes out next week,” Manchin said Tuesday. “He might come out and say, ‘Listen, I’ll take this if you give me this.'”
Manchin spoke to MetroNews hours after President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders got into a fiery exchange regarding funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a promise Trump made at the start of his presidential campaign in June 2015.
Trump, speaking with reporters in front of him, said he would be “proud” if the government shut down over the issue of border security.
“The people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” Trump said. “So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”
Trump and Congress already approved five appropriations bills worth $913 billion. Seven other bills, including $51 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, need to be passed before Dec. 21 to avoid a partial shutdown.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., challenged Trump to put his $5 billion proposal for a wall in front of the House of Representatives, which Trump refused, citing the likelihood the Senate would not pass the related appropriations bill with 60 votes.
“The fact is you do not have the votes in the House,” Pelosi said at one point.
Manchin, who said he watched “bits and pieces” of Tuesday’s meeting, told MetroNews he hopes a negotiation can be worked out following the tense exchange.
“I think both Republicans and Democrats want border security,” he added.
Manchin and Trump had lunch last week, in which the senator talked about the 2013 bipartisan immigration bill that would have put aside $40 billion for border security.
The bill included increasing the number of Border Patrol agents to 40,000, technology upgrades including the use of drones and 700 miles of fencing. In addition, 11 million individuals living in the United States illegally would have had a pathway to citizenship.
“The hard right — the hard, hard right — believes that anybody who came into this country illegally, not through the proper immigration channels, is a criminal and broke the law,” Manchin said. “Even if they are providing quality of value to our country, they’re workers paying taxes, they’re raising good families, they should be sent back because it would be amnesty to let them stay.”
Manchin said Trump seemed interested in passing the “Gang of Eight” legislation, but there is pressure against supporting the proposal.
“‘Mr. President, we’ll break the bill down for you. You can put your own little tweaks to it to become your bill,'” Manchin recalled what he told Trump. “That’s what it really should be.”
Manchin was instrumental in ending the federal government shutdown in January; the senator and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, worked to unite lawmakers behind a resolution reopening the government.
Manchin said he will see if there is an interest in a similar deal this time; he proposed passing six of the remaining appropriations bills unrelated to immigration and a 90-day continuing resolution regarding homeland security. The continuing resolution would give lawmakers more time to discuss how to best address border security.
“I just think a shutdown should not be in our vocabulary. Too many people get hurt during a shutdown,” he said. “With that, I think there’s a pathway forward.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke on the Senate floor about funding homeland security efforts; the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee passed in June a bill which includes $55.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, $14.3 billion for Customs and Border Protection and around $11.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Capito, the subcommittee’s chairman, said more funding is needed because of increases in the number of people apprehended at the border as well as narcotics.
“Border Patrol estimates it could be catching as little as half the traffic that is illegally crossing the southwest border between the ports of entry,” she said. “We really don’t know who we are catching and we don’t know what they are carrying.”
A May report from the minority staff of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee found fentanyl seizures at the border more than double between 2016 and 2017, and staffing shortages at ports of entry have hurt seizure efforts.
“Failure to better secure our border will have consequences for all American communities, and I’m very sad to say that my home state is in an acutely affected area,” Capito said.
“If we fail to better secure our border, we are inviting vulnerable migrant populations — many of who may be fleeing danger in their own communities — to subject themselves to dangerous journeys through rugged terrain. They are often doing so under the thumb of cartels who profit from the illegal human trafficking just as they profit from drug trafficking,” she added.
Capito told Bloomberg she is concerned about the possibility of a shutdown, calling such move over the border wall “a fool’s errand.”