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Clyburn sees hope for bipartisanship on border security, infrastructure

Before President Trump’s State of the Union address, the third-ranking Democrat in the House says he thinks there is common ground to be had on border security. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what priorities both parties could agree on this year.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we want to hear from lawmakers now.

    Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina is the third highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House. And he joins us from Capitol Hill.

    Representative Clyburn, thank you very much for joining us.

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are you — thank you.

    What are you looking for President Trump to say tonight?

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    Well, the president is asking us to choose greatness.

    And I would hope that we hear some greatness from him. But, you know, I have been reading a lot of George — of Alexis de Tocqueville of late.

    And Alexis de Tocqueville in one of his writings, "Democracy in America," told us that America's greatness is not because we are more enlightened than any other country, but because we have always been able to repair our faults.

    I would hope that the president tonight will demonstrate that kind of greatness, propose some things that we can do to repair our faults. They have been highlighted quite a bit in the last several months. And I am hopeful that whatever he says tonight will bring us together as a people, move us forward as a country, and make us really the genius of greatness.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, where do you see, Congressman Clyburn, there could be common ground?

    Because what the White House says is, we have tried the make overtures to Democrats on border security. They haven't met eye to eye with us.

    And they tick off a number over issues where they say Democrats haven't been able to meet them halfway. What do you — where do you see potential common ground?

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    Well, I think there's common ground to be had on border security.

    The president seems to have backed away from his concrete 30-foot-high wall and is now talking about more broader security. He's talking about barriers. And we too have backed away from our positions of no money for any kind of wall.

    We are advocating a smart wall, using 21st century technology to make this wall as smart as we have made our telephones and our televisions. So we can have a smart wall, one that will use drones to keep anybody from flying over it, use X-ray equipment to keep anybody from getting around it, use scanners to keep anybody from burrowing under it undetected.

    So we can do this in a smart way. I just came back from Brownsville, Texas. We were at a port of entry. And I saw a port in dire need of retrofitting. I saw fencing that's already there in dire need of repairing.

    I do believe that we can do what is necessary to secure our border, just do it in a smart way, not to build a monument to anybody.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, to be clear, you're saying Democrats — and, obviously, as we said, you're third in line in leadership in the House — that Democrats are prepared to support the money for some sort of physical barrier?

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    So long as it's done smartly.

    I believe that we will vote for whatever that committee comes out. If they come out with a bipartisan approach to get this done, irrespective of how they put it together, I do believe you will get extensive support among Democrats for it. It may not be unanimous, but there will be a lot of unity.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are Democrats prepared to show respect to the president tonight? I ask that because we remember under President Obama there were State of the Union addresses when members called out to him, once one of them calling him a liar.

    How do you see tonight going?

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    I think you will see us being very respectful.

    You know, my dad used to teach us all the time that the first sign of a good education is good manners. So I try to put my education on display every time I walk into the halls of Congress or the House of Representatives.

    You may remember, when that yell was made, I'm the one that led the charge to get a resolution of disapproval for what my colleague said that night, and it passed the House of Representatives. And I think that we showed then that we disapprove of such actions, and we certainly are not going to do anything to violate what we did last year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Clyburn, finally, what other areas do you see Democrats and Republicans and the White House working together on this year?

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    Oh, I think that we can do a comprehensive infrastructure deal. I think we know that it's necessary for us to develop our rural communities.

    We need to be putting in water and sewage. We need to be repairing roads and bridges. We need to be building schools in our rural areas. We can do a comprehensive bill that would have broadband deployment going into these rural communities. Too many of them are being left behind. We need to make this investment.

    It will pay off handsomely if we do, and I really believe it can be done in a bipartisan way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman James Clyburn, who is the whip for the Democrats in the House of Representatives, thank you very much.

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    Thank you.

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