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Sen. Jeff Merkley On Wasted $5 Billion For Border Wall: 'That's 650,000 Children Attending Head Start'

Sen. Jeff Merkley discussed with ABC's Jonathan Karl why Democrats aren't going to give Trump a dime for his ridiculous border wall, and reminded everyone what we could be spending that $5 billion on instead.
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Sen. Jeff Merkley explained very clearly to host Jonathan Karl why Democrats aren't going to give Trump a dime for his border wall on the southern border on ABC's This Week this Sunday and reminded everyone what we should be spending that money on rather than throwing $5 billion down the toilet for a concrete wall that doesn't work.

KARL: So you just heard director, soon to be Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney say the president’s not backing down, he’s not going to agree to anything that doesn’t include funding for his border wall. How do we get out of this impasse?

MERKLEY: Well I think the president is determined to carry this forward at least until the Democratic Congress comes in. He’s not -- it’s not about border security, Jon. He's sitting on over $1 billion, 94 percent of what we sent him last year for border security he hasn't bothered to spend. If you're not going to spend nine out of 10 dollars on an issue, you obviously don't care about it that much. This is politics, not policy.

KARL: But if you look at this question of the wall, this is something the president campaigned on, it is something that the House has voted to approve funding for, it's something that half the Senate, roughly, has said that -- is -- is willing to support. Why are the Democrats so insistent -- Chuck Schumer insistent nothing -- nothing for the border wall? Why not give in a little bit on that?

MERKLEY: Because we're absolutely willing to fund border security. The American people want us to spend money in a smart way. $5 billion is a lot of money. That's 650,000 children attending head start. It's 2 million meals a day for a year -- for a year for -- for seniors. And to spend it on a 4th century strategy rather than on stuff that actually improves border security is something we're just not going to do.

KARL: So -- so let me be clear. Democrats are not going to agree to any funding to build a new border wall? None?

MERKLEY: That's correct. None.

KARL: What -- what about this idea of a --

MERKLEY: Border security all the way. Border security all the way. In fact, again, the president has a lot of money we gave him last year for border security and he's not using it.

Merkley also had to remind Karl that Democrats already tried compromising with Trump and had a bipartisan deal which included the Dreamers, and Trump was the one who blew it up as soon as he was attacked by the right, so there's no negotiating with this man in good faith. He'll say something one day and turn around and say the opposite the next.

KARL: So what -- what about this idea of -- of a compromise where the president gets some money for his wall in exchange for agreeing to -- to providing some kind of legal status for the DREAMers?

MERKLEY: Well you know, we went through the broader negotiation last year. The president said, bring me a bipartisan plan, I’m ready to move on the DREAMers. We sent up two senators from each party, went and briefed the president and he went within two days from being, I will take the heat, I will stand behind this plan, to completely melting down as soon as he was attacked by Breitbart. And so we -- we have a president who has shown no interest since in the broader negotiation. We’re certainly standing ready for that.

We have a plan a bipartisan plan that's on the table. We have the 2013 plan that passed by a super majority in the senate that would address the vast bulk of these issues. So, we're ready for a broader discussion. The president hasn't been there.

KARL: But that 2013 plan, which you supported, included money for some 700 miles of border fence and you just told me...

MERKLEY: Border security.

KARL: A border fence, a wall...

MERKLEY: There's a difference between a fence and wall.

KARL: There is?

MERKLEY: 30-foot concrete wall, 30-foot steel spikes, that's not the smart way, and that's what all the experts on the border tell us.

You know, I went to the border a couple times. And I must say when you talk with the border guards they fill you in on what's really happening and say the president's vision and understanding of the law, he just doesn't get it. He doesn't get that the drugs are coming through tunnels. He doesn't get that they need high security sensors, he doesn't need personnel. All of that we are supporting. The things that are effective, we support. Broader negotiations, let's have them.

Trump is taking his marching orders from Fox, right wing blogs and hate talk radio. Don't expect that to change as long as he's in office.

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