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Hoyer: Democrats believe in border security, not Trump’s wall

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says President Trump’s “theater” of suggesting he is willing to shut down the government if he doesn’t get what he wants for border wall funding is “not particularly productive” as a negotiating tactic. Hoyer joins Judy Woodruff to talk about the opening for compromise between Trump and the Democrats.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we just heard, for the Democrats' perspective, I did speak just a short time ago to Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer. He is Nancy Pelosi's deputy. He's the incoming majority leader.

    We went over where things go from here after today's Oval Office meeting.

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    He likes theater. He likes playing for the camera.

    And very difficult to have any serious negotiations when you're, in effect, speaking to millions of people, as opposed to just the president or the person you're negotiating with.

    But it's a — it's a tactic of his, and I think it's not particularly productive.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It looks as if this is at an impasse until the last minute. Is that what's going on now?

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    Well, it appears to be.

    You know, the president has said last year, he's repeated this year, and he repeated three times today how he would be proud to shut down the government, that he was looking forward, and he would shut down the government. And if he didn't get what he wanted, he would shut down the government.

    I think that's awfully unfortunate, for a president of the United States, who is responsible for the executive department, saying, I'm going to shut down government if I don't get exactly what I want.

    None of us get exactly what we want, and shutting down the government shouldn't be an alternative. And, as a matter of fact, I think almost every Republican leader has urged the president not to shut down the government.

    We are prepared to fund border security. We believe in border security. We need to make our country safe. What we don't believe in is that the wall that the president proposes to build, which he said was going to be paid for by the Mexican government, we don't believe that's a very effective tool.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But…

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    And, as a matter of fact, we think there are a lot of Republicans who share that view. So, it is very, very unfortunate.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But if I could just interrupt, there is still a gap, though, a significant gap between what the president is asking for, over $5 billion. Democrats are saying 1-point-something-billion.

    Democrats have a responsibility here, too, as you just said, both sides. Why not give more in order to reach an agreement?

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    Well, I think, frankly, if we had those discussions about, give me some more money, if that would be focused on border security, and making sure the border is secure — I mean, he sent thousands of troops to the border to make it secure, which was very, very costly.

    So that I think that would be a discussion we could have. But Leader Schumer and Leader Pelosi made it very clear that the wall is not an option that we're going to vote for.

    Now, he — his party controls the House of Representatives. It controls the United States Senate. And if they can pass it, fine. That's — they're in the majority. But if they can't pass it, or if we can't pass something, then we need to compromise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I do want to quote something that Leader Pelosi said in a report back to colleagues at the Capitol after the meeting. It's been reported she was talking about the president.

    She said: "It's like a manhood thing for him, as if manhood could ever be associated with him" — end quote.

    Were you there when this was said?

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    I wasn't there, Judy. I didn't hear that quote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    If she said this, is this the kind of thing that do you think affects the working relationship between Democrats and the president?

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    Well, I think there's nobody who uses rhetoric in a harsher way than the president of the United States and makes it more difficult to reach compromise, frankly, than President Trump.

    But having said that, hopefully — this is bigger than Nancy or bigger than the president. This is talking about the United States government staying operative, serving the American people, staying on guard for the people's safety and service.

    And we ought not we ought — we ought not to get into that rhetoric. What we ought to get into is, you said he can't pass this bill because he can't get enough votes in the Senate. I agree with that. That's correct. He's correct on that point.

    Therefore, he wants something, and it's necessary for him to compromise. He says he wants something to keep the border secure. We are for that. I'm sure we will agree to additional — additions to the budget to better secure the borders.

    What we don't believe is, the wall is good policy. And it won't work. And experts make that point to us. And, therefore, we are prepared to compromise on money, but we're not prepared to compromise on the end that he wants to seek. And, if he had the votes, he could do it. He doesn't have the votes. He needs to compromise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    House Minority Whip Representative Steny Hoyer, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.:

    Thank you very much, Judy.

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