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‘People need to start acting like adults,’ Rep. Fitzpatrick says of shutdown

While President Trump insists a physical wall is critical to securing the southern border, some members of his own party say the government should reopen before negotiations on a wall continue. One of them is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., who tells Judy Woodruff Americans are less safe while key government agencies are closed and that a majority supports a bipartisan

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tonight, as we have been hearing, the president is expected to reiterate his demand for a border wall. It is at the center of the political divide driving the ongoing government shutdown.

    But there are growing calls to get the government back open, including from the president's own party.

    I'm joined now by Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. He served on the House Homeland Security Committee in the most recent Congress.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick, thank you very much for joining us.

    What's your take on how this shutdown has been going? What do you think it has accomplished?

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    No shutdown is good, and it hasn't accomplished anything, which is why we need to reopen the government, which is why I have and will continue to vote to keep our — to reopen our government and to keep it open.

    These are very, very important debates on issues like immigration and border security and DACA, but we can't hold our federal employees hostage, Judy. And, right now, we have a scenario where the TSA screeners at airports, the air traffic control workers are being furloughed. That makes our airways very unsafe.

    You have the CBP, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, the three entities responsible for border security, who are not being funded and are furloughing people. That doesn't help us with border security.

    You have the FBI, my old — my former colleagues and my old employer, who are furloughing people, having to make decisions of essential vs. nonessential employees, which hurts their counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal and cyber-security investigations.

    Government shutdowns are no way to run a country and no way to govern. We need to get the government open. And then we need to have full transparent hearings on border security, on DACA, and have a bipartisan solution.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as we were saying, you are a Republican. The president of the United States, a member of your own party, he's arguing that border security is such a problem for this country. He's calling it even a crisis, a security crisis, humanitarian crisis.

    He's saying that overrides right now the need to keep the government running.

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    Well, there's two issues there. The first is a legal question, specifically, like a constitutional law question, Article 2 of the Constitution and also Title 50 of the U.S. Code, as to whether it meets that definition.

    I think, if they were to go down that path, it would get tied up in litigation. The second question is, is that the path we should be going down? And I think what should happen is, Congress ought to be making this decision.

    The reality is that the Democrats control the House, Republicans control the Senate. This necessarily needs to be a bipartisan solution, as it should be. And what needs to happen is, people need to start acting like adults, they need to come to the center. Nobody's going to get everything they want.

    But they got to be willing to sacrifice something to come up with a solution on border security, but do it when the government is open. This is no way to make decisions, under circumstances like this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, again, that is not the president's view. Have you made your thoughts known to the White House?

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    Yes. I'm interviewing with every outlet that wants to talk to me. And I have made public statements. And my votes speak for themselves.

    I voted — there were seven of us in the GOP Caucus last week that voted to fund the government for the C.R.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so what do you think the cost of this is?

    I mean, some of us have been talking to people at the White House, talking to people very close to the president. I mean, they continue to say that, yes, we know it's an inconvenience, it's not good the government's closed down, but we believe — and I'm speaking of the White House and the president — we believe that it's more important to hold that — hold the government closed, if necessary, in order to get what we need to build a wall on the border.

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    I will tell you, we had this opportunity, Judy, six months ago.

    We had a moderate package, an immigration reform package which protected our DACA kids, which provided for very robust border security. And it didn't make it out of the House. That's — that was our chance to do it. And there are a lot of people that didn't support it.

    So that's — but that's where we have to have that debate. You don't hold the federal work force hostage, particularly, Judy — and the irony of this whole situation is we're defunding our border security apparatus on the border, all functions of DHS, all in the name of border security.

    We need to fund them and make sure that they're doing their job down there and have the debate once a government is open. That's what I believe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What the president is saying is that his base, people who support him, are 100 percent behind him on this, that the vast majority of Republicans are with him on this. What are you hearing from your constituents?

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    I think people want the government to be open and to function, and they want bipartisan compromise. That's what the overwhelming majority of people in my district and the overwhelming majority of people in this country want.

    It's just like any relationship in our lives. We never get everything we want 100 percent of the time, whether it be personal relationships, business, financial. Government should be no different. Congress should be no different.

    And the unfortunate reality, Judy, is this is being used. It's being politicized. And certain words in the legislative process become toxic. The term wall has become toxic in this debate, because it conjures up images of a brick-and-mortar structure across all 1,900 miles of the border. That's not sensible.

    What the sensible thing to do is, from a border security standpoint, provide DHS with the funding, give them the discretion, give the experts, Border Patrol, CBP and the Coast Guard, based on the sector, based on the terrain, what's appropriate.

    Along some sectors, physical barriers make sense. Under some sectors, technology makes sense, heat sensors, motion detectors, infrared. Aerial surveillance makes sense in different sectors, but let them make the decision. Let the experts make that decision, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, just quickly, as you know, the president continues to talk about a wall. He's now talking about a steel wall, but he's still talking about a structure along the entire border.

    Just finally, what do you want to hear from the president tonight?

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    Well, I want to hear the truth. I want to hear facts. I want to hear honesty. And I want to hear a willingness to compromise. That is the nature of government. That's the nature of governing.

    That's the nature of any relationship. We can't just dictate to people our way of thinking. You have got to learn and be willing to compromise with other people who think differently. Border security is incredibly important, Judy.

    I'm the national chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force that deals with the opioid crisis. Border security is a big, big component to dealing with that, but it's got to be a bipartisan solution.

    Everybody in our Problem Solvers Caucus, centrist Democrats, centrist Republicans — I'm a big believer in that caucus — we all want the same thing. We have come up with a solution of our own. I would love for that solution to get offered and put on the floor. But that's the way forward.

    Myself, Jimmy Panetta, who is an amazing colleague of mine from California, came up with a perfect answer to this problem.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, just very quickly, yes or no, do you expect the president to offer a compromise tonight?

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    I hope so. We will see what he says. But that's what I would like to see him do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.:

    Thanks, Judy.

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