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'Right Thing to Do' to 'Marry' Border Wall and DREAMer Protection, Says GOP Congresswoman

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) leaves the House Republican Conference meeting on Sept. 26, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – To end the government shutdown, some Republican lawmakers told PJM they would vote for a deal that offers legal status to DREAMers and provides the $5.7 billion President Trump has requested this year for a border barrier.

“My district is a swing district and I’m surprised at the number of people who are saying, well, I’m good with the shutdown because I want to see the border wall – that surprised me. I keep saying it doesn’t have to be either/or. We could do something very responsible here like negotiate a deal if you put the money for the wall in addition to let’s give some legal certainty to the DREAMer kids,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) told PJM on Thursday after speaking at an event held by E-PAC, a new political action committee focused on electing more Republican women to Congress.

“It’s the right thing to do. Hey, let’s marry those two together. Give the leaders at the table who all have egos a way to get out of this, get some good policy wins and move forward, for crying out loud,” she added.

Beutler, whose father is Mexican-American, said she personally supports adding physical barriers on the border.

“I do support the wall as well. I’ve talked about being Hispanic – it’s funny, everybody puts you into these boxes. I look here and I think of course it makes sense for a sovereign nation to defend its borders, to own security of its borders – every country does that,” she said. “It has not been radical until really the last year and a half. In addition, though, I don’t think we need to put, say, the Department of the Interior and all its employees and its actions on hold in order to fix the border.”

Beutler said she does not think the shutdown is going to harm the GOP in the long run, despite recent polling showing the majority of the public is placing blame on President Trump and the Republican Party.

“I’ve lived long enough to see the rise and the fall of the Republican Party more than once and so, no, I am not afraid of everything that’s being talked about around the turn,” she said.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa) told PJM he would support a deal that offers legal status for the DREAMers in connection with more border security funding as a condition to reopen the government.

“Border security, DACA, the DREAMers and TPS [Temporary Protected Status], roll them all into one, one piece of legislation that addresses all of those issues,” Fitzpatrick told PJM during an interview at the March for Life on Friday. “The government just needs to reopen. I know that. So, if the president is willing to accept that as a condition to reopen the government, I just want the government reopened. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they’re in a really tough circumstance right now, so the No. 1 priority has got to be reopen the government.”

Some Democrats such as Rep. Eric Stalwell (D-Calif.) have said the DREAMers should not be connected to border security funding for physical barriers. Fitzpatrick disagrees with that position.

“It’s all connected. It’s all part of immigration reform just like E-verify, just like the visa lottery, just like the ag guest worker program, they are all pieces to the puzzle of the comprehensive immigration situation that’s got to be fixed, including securing the border because we don’t want another DACA/ DREAMer situation another 15 years from now,” he said.

As the longest shutdown in history continues, Fitzpatrick said he would prefer the Trump administration and Congress debate border security after fully reopening the government. He lamented the Trump administration’s poor messaging about the border wall during the shutdown, arguing that the “wall” has become a divisive term that shouldn’t be used anymore.

“I don’t like the term ‘wall,’ either; it has become a toxic word and it’s causing a lot of division. We should talk about border security and that means, to me, giving the discretion to the experts, which are CBP, the Coast Guard and the Border Patrol. They know on what sector and on what kind of terrain what’s needed to secure that border,” said Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent.

“The term ‘wall’ has become so divisive and it is preventing anybody from coming up with a solution. I think the language needs to change to ‘border security’ if we’re going to get our centrist and left-of-center friends on board – we’ve got to change the language,” he added.

PJM asked Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), NRCC chair, if he thinks the shutdown is going to hurt the GOP’s chances of taking back the House in 2020. In response, Emmer said the Democrats have not put anything on the table after Trump’s request for the $5.7 billion in wall funding.

“You should probably offer a little more than $1 to get it done [reopen the government],” he said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quipping earlier this month to reporters that she would contribute a dollar to the border wall.

Pelosi wrote a letter to Trump this week recommending that the State of the Union Address be postponed until the government is open. PJM asked Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) if she agreed with Pelosi.

“When government is divided and you have Republicans and Democrats they need to come to the table, and there’s a deal that could be made here but we need to come to the table,” Rodgers said.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) agreed with Pelosi that Trump’s annual address to a joint session of Congress should not occur during the government shutdown.

“It would suggest that what he is promoting is a fantasy because he is not governing and he has created a false shutdown. It’s impacting hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, like 800,000 to begin with, and then many, many thousands more who rely on housing subsidies or food stamps,” Speier said. “We’ve got to bring this shutdown to an end and I’m not interested in hearing anything he has to say until we reopen government.”

When asked if she would support Trump giving the State of the Union Address from the White House instead of Congress, Speier said that’s “certainly his prerogative.”

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), the first female physician elected to the House, applauded Pelosi’s letter to Trump, which argued that necessary security for an event like the State of Union couldn’t be adequately provided during a shutdown.

“To ask people to come to work and not get paid to protect us is not a good use of the taxpayer dollars – deliver it in writing. It’s free and it doesn’t make people work who aren’t getting paid,” Schrier said.

Some Democrats boycotted Trump’s last State of the Union address.

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) said she plans to attend whenever Trump delivers the speech.

“I might not agree with people in leadership positions, and we see that no matter what side you’re on, but this is my job so I need to be there to be informed by the president on his agenda and what he is moving toward so it’s important to be there,” Axne said.