Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who was one of the Republican senators who voted with the Democrats to end the government shutdown last week, made an appearance on Fox's Sunday Morning Futures, and insisted that they're going to get Trump to agree to some sort of comprehensive immigration reform in order to avoid another shutdown before the new Feb. 15th deadline arrives.
Bartiromo failed to ask Alexander why anyone should believe that given the fact that the right rump of his party has killed any hopes of finding some sort of compromise on immigration for decades now, and the fact that Trump just caved to the hardliners in immigration when this shutdown first started in December.
Given how beholden he is to his xenophobic base, why should anyone believe he's going to make any meaningful compromise on this issue? Trump's idea of "compromising" is to give him what he wants and he'll agree to quit holding his breath and stomping his feet.
Republicans had two years with control of both the House and the Senate and the presidency, and they did nothing on comprehensive immigration reform. Alexander's painting a very rosy scenario here on what we can expect to happen in the next couple of weeks.
BARTIROMO: So why did you vote for this bill that did not include border security, sir?
ALEXANDER: I wanted the government to be open, and I would have voted ten times to open the government. We should never, ever close the government down as a bargaining chip in a budget negotiation whether it's border security or planned parenthood or military funding or anything else. It ought to be the chemical weapons of real warfare. It ought to be off limits.
BARTIROMO: Yeah, that's a fair point, sir. Let's talk about the next three weeks and what it looks like. You've got another, now, deadline, February 15th. Are we going to see money for the border wall?
ALEXANDER: Well, we should, and here's something that's overlooked. The last four presidents, Obama, Clinton, Bush, Bush, working with congress built 654 miles of physical barrier, that's wall, along our 2,000-mile southern border. That's before president Trump.
BARTIROMO: Right. And we're looking right now at a graphic. The wall in Nancy Pelosi's state. This is the wall separating Tijuana from San Diego. And this is a wall that has been there and she voted for and knows it's in her own state, and yet she says any more wall is immoral.
ALEXANDER: Yeah. That's -- we need to get it out of the Speaker's hands in the public debate and into the hands of members of Congress who have for 20 years known that a comprehensive border security plan includes more personnel, more technology and more physical barrier.
President Trump's asking for about 234 more miles of physical barrier as part of a comprehensive plan that would not build a wall from shining sea to shining sea, as he said. It would simply do what we've been doing for 20 years. So I'm optimistic that the committee, which just last summer in the Senate approved another $1.6 billion for 65 miles of physical barrier, will be able to come up with a compromise.
BARTIROMO: Well, you are on the appropriations committee, sir. What would be the appropriate number to actually come up with the money for a border wall? And we know that on the left many of your colleagues just want to resist this president. Is that what Nancy Pelosi is doing, given the fact that we know in the past she has voted for border fencing, barriers like the one in her own state we just looked at?
ALEXANDER: That's why we need to get it out of this no wall/wall fight between the Speaker and the president and into the hands of members of Congress who for 20 years have been saying we need more physical barrier, we need more technology, we need more custom agents, we need more border agents.
We can do that just as we did for president Obama, Clinton, Bush and Bush and come up with a reasonable number for all of those things as part of a comprehensive border security. Remember, even if all of the physical barrier, wall, that president Trump asked for were approved, we'd still have about 1,000 miles of the southern border that would not have any sort of wall on it, and he would not have asked for any sort of wall on it.
So this is a very reasonable request by the president. He's done what they asked him to do which is to cooperate in opening the government. It's now time for them to be reasonable and do again what they've done for 20 years working with other presidents.
BARTIROMO: So how can you do that? Can you actually get it out of the Speaker's hands and this fight between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump, get it firmly in Congress' hands and have practical solutions? Do you think that's possible?
ALEXANDER: Actually, that's where it is now, and that's what we suggested three weeks ago. So we have a conference committee, it includes Senators and House members. They're already structured. They're ready to meet. They're the ones that have in the past approved as recently as last year in the Senate more technology, more personnel, more physical barrier.
And so it'll be their job then to recommend to the House and the Senate and the president what a solution is. And they'd be smart not to recommend something the president couldn't sign, because under the constitution if you want a law, the president has to sign it, so they'll be checking with him, and I'm sure, checking with the leaders of the Senate and House along the way, but it won't be this highly publicized stuff where the president comes out and says wall, and Nancy comes out of her office and says no wall. That's not the way you get a result.
BARTIROMO: That's right, but you said, you know, let's get it out of that fight and into Congress' hands, that something can be done about it. Do you feel you and your colleagues will have the power to do that? Because we know that many of the incoming Democrat freshmen Congressmen, actually, are moderate, and they want to get things done. They signed a letter, sent it to leadership saying we don't want all this bluster about investigations, we want to get things done for the American people. Will they have the influence? Will you have the influence in order to get this done, get it out of the fighting words and actually toward border security including fencing?
ALEXANDER: Well, we'll see, but most of us learn after we're here a few weeks that it doesn't take much courage or skill to take a position. You can stay home and do that. It does take some courage and some skill to get a result, and that's what the members of this conference committee will be trying to do, to get comprehensive border security on the southern boarder, and where appropriate, more technology, more personnel and more physical barrier, meaning wall.
BARTIROMO: Well, being on the appropriations committee, can you share with us the priorities, what would it cost, what is a practical number? The president's asking for $5.7 billion. The Democrats will push back. What do you think is realistic in terms of the next three weeks of negotiation?
ALEXANDER: Well, I can give you a number approved by Senate last year, $1.6 billion for new physical barrier or 65 miles of wall. The president said in the middle of the year said well, we've got a problem on the border that I didn't anticipate, we need another $7 billion. He's asked for $4.1 billion for a physical barrier of that.
That's what the Congress will consider. That's what the conference will talk about. And the Republicans will support what the president asked for. The Democrats will say, well, I'm skeptical of that, but there's some other things I'd like to see in immigration policy. You put the two things together, and get a result.
That's what we normally do. That's what we did with presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush and Bush, that's what we should do with president Trump.
BARTIROMO: You make a lot of good points sir. Let me ask you this. Let's say in the next three weeks Nancy Pelosi digs in and says absolutely no more than one dollar for any wall or fencing, will the government close down again?
ALEXANDER: The government should never close down --
BARTIROMO: So what are you going to do?
ALEXANDER: I would hope that the Speaker... well, I always vote to open the government, period. What I hope the Speaker would do -- she's taken her position, the president's taken his. Now step back and let the Congress come up with a result and allow it to happen. I mean, if we can't do it on this, we can't do it on anything. And typically we to this. I've worked on a great many issues like fixing no child left behind where President Obama said there are three things I want in the bill or I won't sign it. So okay, Mr. President, I read the constitution, they'll be in there, but give me some time to work out a bill that Republicans can support with a lot of things we like that you probably don't like. And so we were able to do that. That's what we do. And the Speaker should step back, and the president should too actually, give us these three weeks to try to get a result, and I think we can.