JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the president’s campaign rally last night, and get the perspective of a Republican congressman where the border debate hits home. Representative Will Hurd of Texas serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, as well as the Intelligence and Oversight Committees. Earlier this month, Hurd visited 20 different Dairy Queens for a series of meet-and-greets with constituents across his sprawling district. It stretches from San Antonio down to El Paso. That is one-third of the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
Congressman Hurd, thank you very much for joining us.
So, 20 Dairy Queens. Tell us, what did your constituents tell you? What was on their minds?
REP. WILL HURD, R-Texas: Well, what was interesting is one of the first questions I got asked was about North Korea. I think the potential threat of nuclear war makes people want to ask those questions. We also heard about tax reform as well, and with 820 miles of the border with U.S. and Mexico, the smart wall which is a piece of legislation I have been working on, they were asking more questions about that.
So, it was one of the things I try to do every year. I’ve done over 450 public events in last two and a half years I’ve been in conclude, and it’s a great way to get the temperature of the people you’re supposed to represent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I don’t know whether you had a chance to talk to constituents today, but I do want to ask you about President Trump’s comments last night at that rally in Phoenix, where he went after the news media other ands, said his remarks in the aftermath of Charlottesville had been misrepresented, that he’s denounced bigotry, and he’s denounced racism. He says he’s been unequivocal in that regard.
Do you think he’s been unequivocal in his statements in Charlottesville?
REP. WILL HURD: Well, I think that the changes in some of the positions created doubt about whether the leader of the free world, you know, denounced racism and bigotry. I think he’s — he’s clarified those statements, and — but whenever there’s any kind of doubts, especially when it comes to the president of the United States, that’s unacceptable.
And in America today, there’s no room for skinheads or KKK or neo-Nazis, or anti-Semitism or hatred or bigotry of any kind.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, where do you think he stands on the issue of racism?
REP. WILL HURD: Well, I think he has clarified those statements in previous comments. But, again, I think everybody would have been — would have been — would feel better if those were the statements that came out first and foremost on day one.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman, I want to turn you to the subject that we mentioned a moment ago, and that is the president’s statement last night that he very much still wants that border wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border. He said at one point that he’s prepared to see the government shut down if the Congress does not vote the funding for that border wall as he envisions it.
And I know you have not supported his position on the wall. How do you read what he’s saying?
REP. WILL HURD: Well, I think shutting the government down for $1.5 billion of a concrete structure doesn’t make sense. The GAO did a report recently that showed that it actually costs more money when the government was shut down in 20 — I think it was 2013, than keeping it open. So I think that’s a strategy that we shouldn’t pursue.
And to me the alternative is a smart wall, building a ball from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least-effective way to do border security. It’s 2017. We should have secured our border by now. We should have operational control over the 2,000 miles. And the quickest and most effective way to do that right now is with technology and manpower.
And this is a fraction of the cost. The wall — based on the administration numbers — per mile is $25.5 million a mile. A smart wall, where you use technology, half a million. It’s a $24 million difference per mile.
It is 2017. We can deploy sensors that tell the difference between an animal and a person. We can track that person with a drone until we deploy our most important resource, the men and women in border patrol. And that’s a fraction of the cost of building a concrete structure.
And what we have to remember is every mile of the border is different from every other mile. And building a 30-foot-high concrete structure that takes four hours to penetrate in the Chihuahuan Desert, is the equivalent of the bridge to nowhere. And if you don’t have Border Patrol to respond to threats on a physical structure, then that physical structure is actually not a barrier.
And so, we should be — we should be smart about this, and we should be making sure we don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution to border security.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It was interesting, the president referred only to Democrats opposing his support of that wall last night. But it’s clear that you and other Republicans have concerns as well.
I do want to ask you, Congressman Hurd about what the president had to say about the two Republican senators from Arizona last night, the state where he was. He didn’t call them out by name, Senator McCain and Senator Flake. But he went after both of them, as he has in the past, and we know in the last few days of reporting, that he got into a shouting match with the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, in the last few days.
Today, both McConnell and the White House have put out statements saying they’re still working together. But, clearly, there’s been really, some bad blood. How do you look on that?
REP. WILL HURD: Well, one of the things, Judy, I learned as I was crisscrossing my district going to all these Dairy Queens is that people realize there’s way more that unites us than divides us. That is appropriate for our party, that’s appropriate for us, all of us as legislators.
And I think our time should be spent on talking about those things that unite us as Americans and deliver for the American public. And I think that is something that is a better use of everyone’s time, and this is going to further the cause of the American people a lot more than focusing on divisions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you think the president is talking about unifying Americans enough?
REP. WILL HURD: I don’t think so. And, again, you know, the bully pulpit that the president has is pretty significant. And I think that one of the things this I’ve learned in my two and a half years in Congress is the American people want to see us transcend party label and transcend D and R and actually get things done, deliver to the American people, and I think if we were focused on that, we would be seeing a lot more folks happy with what’s going on in Washington, D.C.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Will Hurd of Texas, thank you very much.
REP. WILL HURD: Always a pleasure to be on.