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Why Sen. Collins is ‘very optimistic’ about a deal to fund border security

Lawmakers have three weeks to come up with a long-term deal on border security, or potentially be faced with a second government shutdown or the president's declaring a national emergency. Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, about why she’s “very optimistic” that Congress can come up with a plan the president will sign and mechanisms for preventing future government shutdowns.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn now to Capitol Hill.

    With the federal government reopened, lawmakers today were focused on committee hearings and legislative agendas. But the pressure to avoid a second government shutdown hangs over Congress.

    To discuss all this and more, I'm joined by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

    Senator Collins, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    So, first question, what do you think the prospects are of another shutdown in three weeks?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I'm very optimistic that we can avoid another shutdown.

    Shutdowns are never justified, no matter what the cause may be. And I believe that those who thought a shutdown would be worthwhile have been disabused of that notion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you know, Senator, what the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, was referring to today when he said he would like to see shutdowns made more difficult in these kind of budget negotiations? Is there some kind of plan in mind?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    There are a couple of bills that have been introduced that would have a mechanism by which government would go on what we call a continuing resolution, a stopgap funding at the current levels, in order to avoid any shutdown.

    And there's a lot of interest in how we could craft that to ensure that this is the last shutdown that our country will ever endure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You think that could get done in three weeks?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I do.

    I believe that we can come up with a compromise that will allow us to fund some of the president's border security initiative, as well as to fund the remainder of government for the rest of the fiscal year through September 30.

    And part of that package may well the some sort of legislation that has a mechanism to ensure that, no matter what the policy disputes may be, that there will not be a future shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I want to ask you about the president's demand for money for border security, because he is continuing to say there has to be money here for some kind of physical barrier at the border.

    Democrats, as you know, are saying no, no money for a physical barrier. Do you think the president could in the end be prepared to give on that?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I think there is plenty of room for a compromise on this issue. You have Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying not one dollar for any kind of physical barrier, despite the fact that we have built 654 miles of physical barriers, fences for the most part, in the last two administrations, both President Obama and President Bush's administration.

    And then you have the president asking for $5.7 billion for some sort of wall or steel fence. There's a lot of room between not one dollar and $5.7 billion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you think the Democrats are going to need to do the giving? Is that what you're saying, that they're going to end up putting some money on the line?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I think both sides.

    After all, keep in mind that, just this past summer, in the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, we approved a bill for the Homeland Security Department that included $1.6 billion for physical barriers, as well as other means of strengthening our border security.

    The president's plan is actually $7 billion beyond that, because it includes more Border Patrol agents, immigration judge, sensors, roads to remote areas, new technology. We need an all-of-the-above approach, and I believe that people of goodwill can come together and come up with a package.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're all anxious to know what that in-between language is going to be.

    Senator, several other things I want to ask you about, very quickly.

    We heard the acting attorney general say this week that he believes the special counsel's investigation, Robert Mueller's investigation will be wrapping up soon. Do you know whether that's true or not?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I really don't.

    Certainly, the special counsel has handed down a number — or has secured, I think, 34 indictments and some convictions, and it might well be logical that he is at the point where he's wrapping up his investigation, but I don't know that for certain.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a completely different topic, Senator.

    We're seeing a large number of Democrats express interest in running for president in 2020. We're even hearing conversation from Republicans who may be thinking about challenging President Trump for the nomination, Republican nomination.

    Are you at this point prepared to endorse President Trump?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I'm really focused on my own campaign for 2020, and I really haven't focused on the presidential campaign. So I'm not prepared at this point to make that decision.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But do you expect at some point between now and November of 2020 to endorse the president, since you're a Republican?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I don't know.

    I'm going to have to see what happens between now and then, and look at what his record is. I can't imagine that I would endorse any of the Democrats who are running right now, but I'm going to focus on 2020 in 2020.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're leaving the door open to perhaps supporting another Republican?

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    Well, I'm just not focused on it, Judy, right now, so I'm neither ruling it nor ruling it out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    Thank you, Judy.

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