Hassan: Senate Should Vote To Reopen The Federal Government

Jan 10, 2019

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The federal government shutdown continues as President Trump and Democratic lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement on funding for a border wall.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan about what's going on in Washington as those negotiations continue.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

In the president's address Tuesday, he instructed Americans to call their representatives and ask for support for a border wall. Have you heard from any constituents on this?

What I hear from my Republican colleagues in the Senate, like Senators [Susan] Collins, and [Lisa] Murkowski and [Cory] Gardner, is that it makes no sense to keep the government shut down while we negotiate on border security. And I know we all care about border security -- Democrats and Republicans. And what I hear the most right now is that we need to reopen government, and while we reopen government we can continue to work to come to a common sense agreement on smart, effective border security.

Have the primetime live addresses changed anything about the negotiations?

Well the president didn't offer anything new in his address to the country. And it is completely irresponsible to hold a significant portion of the federal government hostage just to try to get his campaign slogan built. We are seeing the impacts of this shutdown across New Hampshire and across our country just because the president is really playing political games here.

Now what are you hearing from your Republican colleagues? What could be a compromise here?

Well what I am hearing from Senators [Lisa] Murkowski, [Cory] Gardner, and [Susan] Collins and some others privately is that we should open up the government as the first step here, and then we can continue to have the discussions about border security. What we hear from people on the front lines on the ground at the border, whether they are [U.S. Customs & Border Protection] agents or whether they are experts generally, what we hear from our municipal leaders at the border is that we need more agents. We need more immigration judges. We certainly need more technology at the border. And those are the types of things we should be focused on. We also know we need to repair and enhance certain fencing that is already there. But again, this shouldn't be a reason to keep the government shut. We should reopen the government. The House has passed bills that would allow us to do that immediately. The Senate should take them up, and I've been calling on Senator [Mitch] McConnell, our Senate leader, to do just that.

How long do you realistically see that this could go on before constituents say look you've got to offer something to get the government open here?

Let's be really clear. Every time there's been a suggestion of a compromise here the president has rejected it. So even when people in his own party suggest a compromise, he says if he doesn't get exactly what he wants, he's going to keep the government shut down. That's not the way we should be approaching this. It is really, really important that we listen to the experts, and focus on commonsense border security and we should reject an ineffective, wasteful use of dollars. The president has to be willing to compromise too. And so far he has shown a complete unwillingness to do that.

Ultimately do you think that this pressure is going to have to come from within the president's own party?

Well I think that the Republicans in the United States Senate should take up the bills that the House has passed to allow us to reopen the government. There is consensus that we could reopen the government in every area except border security for instance, and continue to work on that. This shutdown is imposing unnecessary harm on real people from federal workers, whether it's businesses or individuals, they rely on the government for services [and] for information. That's really critical to their families [and] to our economy. And there is a pathway forward.