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McCarthy on Border Structure: 'A Barrier Is a Wall in the Process'

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at a press conference on Jan. 23, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he referred to border security projects as “barriers” instead of “wall” because “I think, from a standpoint, a barrier is a wall in the process.”

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL,” while White House counselor Kellyanne Conway asked reporters why they and others “are still saying ‘wall’ when the president said you can call it whatever you want.”

Congress has not approved funding for concrete border walls, such as a prototypes prepared for Trump after his campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Renovations have been made to existing fencing using steel bollard fencing, which Trump has said is an acceptable border solution, referring to the fencing as “steel slats.”

“He calls it a wall, a steel slat barrier, physical barrier, anything,” Conway said. “In other words, we need a physical barrier that you can’t crawl under, climb over, drive through, or walk around.”

House Democratic leaders indicated this week that they’re preparing an offer to fulfill Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall request with additional funding for Border Patrol agents and border-security technology.

McCarthy was asked on Capitol Hill today if an offer without a wall is a nonstarter. “I don’t believe anybody in America thinks you can have border security without some form of a barrier,” he replied. “…We find the facts from San Diego to Yuma to El Paso that walls actually work and I think most of all of Americans understand you have to have some barrier to actually have border security.”

Pressed on why he was using the word “barrier,” McCarthy said that visitors to the U.S.-Mexico border “walk away and say I need a wall, I need a barrier, something to protect as we go forward.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters today that she’s “still optimistic in the goodness of the Republicans in the Senate that they will care enough about these people that they will say OK, we’ll give two weeks so that we can negotiate a evidence-based, cost-effective value-respecting way to protect the American people with border security.”

“That doesn’t seem like a big ask especially since we still need to pass the disaster assistance. That’s a simple ask,” she said of the effort to pass a very short-term continuing resolution to begin paying 800,000 federal workers again. “Senators, I don’t think we can speak to them in that way. My hope is that the senators will pass a bill that addresses the concerns of the disaster assistance, $12 billion. We need to pass that legislation, A. And B, two weeks, Feb. 8, short period of time.”

“Open up government, let the negotiations continue or begin at a certain stage so that we can honor the work that these people are doing, deflect those on the Republican side who want to shrink government and this is one way to engineer that; be respectful of how we are protected our civil aviation and the security that the FBI provides for us in so many ways that are shut down because they just don’t understand why people have to stand in food lines.”