Incoming Democrat says party may yield to Trump’s $5B border wall
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A newly elected Democratic congresswoman from Southern California said Friday her party may concede to President Donald Trump’s $5 billion demand for border wall funding to end the ongoing government shutdown – even as a new poll shows most Americans don’t want the wall to be built.
Congresswoman-elect Katie Hill, whose come-from-behind victory in November flipped the 25th District seat for Democrats, said she may vote to grant Trump’s $5 billion funding request. She acknowledged the move will upset her constituents, but is holding out for a more palatable, bipartisan compromise.
“It’s about who will blink first,” Hill said Friday in a phone call with reporters.
But she warned a compromise could split a Democratic caucus set to take control of the House on Jan. 3.
Some Democrats, especially incoming House members who were elected on a progressive mandate, won’t appreciate party leaders conceding to Trump in their first legislative action, Hill said without naming names.
“Hopefully, any solution will mean that all sides are not happy,” Hill said.
Trump, who campaigned on a promise to build the wall, tweeted Friday that he would consider closing the entire 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border unless Democrats – and some of his fellow Republicans opposed to the wall – meet his funding request.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday found 47 percent of U.S adults believe Trump bears more blame than congressional Democrats for the partial government shutdown. Another 33 percent of respondents blame Democrats, while just 7 percent blame Republicans in Congress.
Meanwhile, just 35 percent of respondents want money for the wall including in a congressional spending bill. Only 25 percent of those polled support Trump shutting down the government over the issue.
Trump’s border wall is expected to cost taxpayers $23 billion.
Currently, more than 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since the shutdown occurred Dec. 22. Hill said the shutdown has hit her district in north Los Angeles County particularly hard.
Many residents there are employed by the federal government and are living paycheck to paycheck, Hill said, while many small businesses with ties to the defense industry fear a financially unstable start to 2019.
Voters elected Hill on a progressive platform, based on her promises to get corporate money out of politics and pursue a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country.
Hill said she recognizes many of her constituents oppose funding border wall expansion.
“We know the wall won’t keep us safer,” Hill said.
Congress should instead fund programs in Latin America to address conditions – largely created by U.S military interventions and the war on drugs – that push people to flee their homes, Hill added.
George McCubbin, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees and a former border patrol agent, agreed.
“Everyone has stake in border security, but the wall doesn’t fix the larger immigration problem,” McCubbin said on the call with reporters. “This wall is for Trump’s base.”
McCubbin said Congress should fine businesses that employee undocumented workers but also provide legal status to the millions of immigrants who came to the country legally but overstayed their visas.
Hill said she would support funding needed repairs for certain sections of the existing border wall and increasing border patrol staffing.
“We’ve been punting this issue for too long,” Hill said. “Immigration will be the measure to whether we can keep government open.”