McCarthy: 'It Doesn't Have to Be a Wall' in Final Border Agreement
WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said "it doesn't have to be a wall" in the final border agreement to fund homeland security and avert another government shutdown, but "it could be a barrier" of some sort.
The conference committee tasked with arriving at an agreement, meeting on Wednesday, is composed of seven senators -- Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), top Appropriations Committee Dem Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee -- and 10 House members: Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), David Price (D-N.C.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), and Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).
McCarthy told reporters on the Hill today that "the real question will be" whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) allows a bill to come to the floor "if we come to an agreement inside the conference, even if she disagrees with it, but her conference supports it."
"You know, the wall or the barrier does a lot of things to protect our country. It also protects many of those who need the protection. When you look at what has happened across this border when it comes to human trafficking, the number of individuals who've been stopped, that is such a small price to pay for such a long-term benefit," he said. "...We can solve this problem and that's what we're committed to do. That's why the conferees will meet tomorrow and I'll be interested to hear now that the government is open fully that they're willing to discuss much of what their own conference is talking about, that we need, as well as ours."
It was noted to McCarthy that Granger's description of a potential border compromise -- that may include some sort of physical barrier and improve technology, increase personnel, and put drug sensors at ports of entry -- sounded like the Democrats' plan.
"So the conference could be very good then," McCarthy quipped.
"We should listen to the experts and the experts have told us -- that's where they came up with the $5.7 billion," he later added. "You've got to have barriers in place where there's challenging area. You can use, yes, new technology and we do. We want to continue to expand that. But if you do not have barriers, you just have an open door for individuals to come across in these wide, swaths of areas that aren't controllable."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) separately told reporters that he doesn't see a deal such as DREAMer protections in exchange for a wall as part of negotiations.
"I expect, as normally conference committees are, they're going to talk about how to achieve the objectives and the best resources to apply to achieving those objectives, the objective being, as we have discussed over and over again, secure borders," he said. "And that's what I expect is going to be the status. I, frankly, I will tell you I expect to bring a bill to the floor on DACA and TPS in the near future."
"I think that Senate conferees want it to be successful. I think the House conferees want it to be successful," Hoyer added. "Are there differences? Are they differences in substance? Not as much as I think you would think. I think there are -- I think their ability to get to an agreement. So I'm pretty -- I'm hopeful that that will occur. That's what McConnell said, and I agree. I'm hopeful. And because I think he's hopeful, I think we're hopeful. I think there is a sense that we want to get to an agreement, and I think they'll work towards getting to an agreement."