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Rep. Collins: By packaging shutdown with wall funding, Trump is ‘putting Americans first’

Some House Republicans have voted to separate wall funding from bills that would reopen the government. But Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., tells Judy Woodruff that the “vast majority” of congressional Republicans want to keep the government shutdown tied to funding a border wall, and that he believes Democrats are prioritizing the well-being of people crossing the border illegally over Americans.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for a Republican's take, we turn now to a member of their House leadership team, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia.

    Congressman Collins, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    I think you just heard Leon Panetta say, the president — it's one thing to be worried about the border, but what the president needs to be more concerned about is the country overall, the American people overall and the welfare of this country.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Judy, I think he's exactly right, but I think he's exactly right for a reason he doesn't believe.

    I believe what is happening right now at the border is that the Democrats are putting the lives of others who are coming to our country, trying to come in illegally, ahead of the rights of Americans who are here.

    I believe the president is putting Americans first. I believe he is putting our citizenry first. And we do need to have a balanced approach. No one on the Hill, myself and many others, including the president, have said the border wall or security measures are the only thing that we need.

    There are humanitarian assistance. There's issues of health and safety. There are issues in our laws right now that are giving, frankly, a perverse incentive for people to come across the border to make those long, dangerous trips up here.

    But I think he does have it right in one respect. The president is looking out for the American people. And, oftentimes, when the Democrats will not come to the table, they're telling the American people, we prefer to be on the side of those trying to break in illegally to the country and now the American citizen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I don't think — Democrats certainly wouldn't agree with that.

    But, Congressman Collins, let me ask you about what you just said about the president's emphasis. He — in every conversation, he's bringing up a wall, a physical border. You just described a number of other things that it appears the parties could come to some sort of agreement on.

    Why does the wall itself have to be resolved before federal workers are relieved of what's going on right now, this situation where they're not getting paid and enduring hardships?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Well, at this point in time, I think the president has made it clear.

    And I think the reason the wall is because it's not been addressed. Now, it's been interesting that Democrats addressed it in the past. And they addressed it in building a lot more wall and addressed it in funding it and even going back many years and saying, we want border security.

    The question is, I agree, border security has got to take place, because what has happened so many times in the past is, we say we're going to secure the border. We say we're either going to put fencing up or do the next technologies — technologies and things that we need to do.

    But yet, at the end of the time, we end up not doing those things. And we take — and we — in the past, we gave amnesty away. We gave pathways for people to stay. And we have not addressed that. There has to be a twofold approach here, Judy. There has to be a security piece and the piece that we actually look at to fix it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in the meantime, as we just, again, heard from Leon Panetta, and we have heard it from others, the Americans — those who work for the federal government are being punished because of this unwillingness to bend at the highest levels of our — the leadership of our country.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Well, at this point in time, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, I agree with the discussion, that we need to have, that this is not where we need to be.

    But this is not simply a presidential problem. The president said we need border security and we need the wall. He's made that clear. But also, at the same point, when there's not even a discussion, when he said, if I open it up today, would we have discussion on a wall or border security in 30 days? Nancy Pelosi said no.

    She's made it very clear that her choice is those trying to come in illegally, not the American people that she claims to be — the workers she claims to be fighting for. But yet her priorities are still on a border situation in which, if you ask specifically what are you wanting to do to fix some of these issues, we're not getting that. She just simply says, we're not going to work on it.

    But yet, in the past, a Democrat such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and, yes, even Chuck Schumer have voted for border security walls. They just use it now as a political toy, not to deal with security.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's my understanding that the Democratic leadership is saying, we will talk about security. It's the wall that's the issue.

    But let me turn to something else. The majority in the House, which is now Democrats, have started tonight, today to pass bills to open up individual departments and agencies of government, the IRS, the Treasury, and others.And eight Republicans have now so far voted with the Democrats.

    Are you concerned there are cracks in the Republican support for your side of this argument?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    No.

    If you look back over our voting history, Judy, if you look at almost any votes, when even we were in the majority, we would have — we would typically have five to six or seven Republicans vote no.

    We just are not always lockstep. That is not a significant number. The vast majority, overwhelming majority of Republicans are focused on a plan to say, we will deal with this as a package, because what the Democrats want to do is take away the incentive to get this thing solved.

    And if all you're focusing on is opening the government, making it painless, then they can keep kicking the can of border security down the line. We're standing with the president on this. We want to see a deal. We want to work it out, but — and even Democrats that I talked to on the Florida are wanting to find — and the question that came from many of them to me was, how can we get out of this?

    They understand that it is both not just a single issue. And we have got to work on that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just finally, Congressman Collins, the statistics and numbers the president continues to cite, it's clear that some of those are just either flat-out wrong or greatly exaggerated, for example, talking about the spike in illegal drugs coming across the border.

    Those are — apparently, most or all of them are coming through legal ports of entry, something a wall wouldn't address. Talking about the security crisis at the border, so much of this has to do with people seeking asylum, seeking legal asylum, but the U.S. not having the capacity to deal with that, again, not something a wall could address.

    So how do you get at the core, just flat-out disagreement over what's true here?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Well, what is true is, we have over 300,000 people coming across that are detained at our border. I don't think anybody would argue that's not a large number.

    What is true is that 50 people a day are being referred to medical care coming across the border. They're coming across sick. They're coming across because they're willing to take lives into their hands to do this.

    And, really, it's because of really three areas. There is the Flores. Three areas we could fix on this, Judy. I think the Flores decision, which encourages families to come across, and the decision says that we can — only can detain them for 20 days while we determine their status.

    What happens is, they're let go. They go out into the country. And their decision is decided many years later.

    We could also look at asylum issues, credible fear claims. When they do get to that border and they want to claim asylum, 90 percent are admitted on credible fear. But after it's adjudicated, less than 20 percent are actually allowed to stay, because the fear standard doesn't make.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But my point is, very quickly, that wouldn't be resolved by a wall.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Walls — but — but, also Judy, not dealing with a wall, not dealing with border security, and only trying to deal with other issues, you have got to take away the incentive and also take away the barrier.

    Border Patrol agents have actually said, in the areas in which we have talked about, border walls actually work. And to deny that that happened is not true.

    But also to say that is the only issue is also not being a complete picture person. I want to be a complete picture person. So we need the wall. We need security. And we need to fix these perverse incentives that will send parents, will take children, separate themselves, and send them on journeys without them, into the dangers that are presented there.

    We have got to look at this as a whole.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Doug Collins from the House leadership, Republican leadership, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Judy, it's good to see you.

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