Republican Rep. Don Bacon Discusses Shutdown And Border Wall Funding
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
It is day 26 of the partial government shutdown. Tens of thousands of IRS employees have been called back to work without pay. White House economists are increasing their estimate of the negative impact on the economy. And the two sides do not appear any closer to a deal.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now the State of the Union could be affected. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is suggesting that the president postpone this address to Congress. In a letter, she pointed to the amount of security it requires and proposed, quote, "that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened." She also said Trump could consider delivering it in writing.
Congressman Don Bacon is a Republican from Nebraska who's been advocating for a compromise. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
DON BACON: Thank you. It's good to be with you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Almost one month in, we're not seeing negotiations or numbers going back and forth. The pain on Americans is increasing. You had a long career in the military. You've been in Congress during another shutdown last year. Why do you think this is not following any of the predictable rules of how these things have gone in the past?
BACON: We've become too partisan. We have really two sides that need to come together. We need to make it a win-win situation where the president comes in. He's requesting 5.7 billion. Pelosi and Schumer have come in. I think it was 1.3, but they didn't want any of it to go towards a wall. Well, we got to meet somewhere in the middle.
SHAPIRO: You say the president has offered to meet halfway. Early in the shutdown, Vice President Pence went to Capitol Hill and suggested a $2.5 billion border security package. The White House undercut that, saying the president would not support the $2.5 billion proposal. Doesn't that make it difficult to negotiate when the White House is being inconsistent about what it's willing to offer?
BACON: I personally think he would take that because he said, Pelosi and Schumer, make your offer. And they keep saying, zero. But the president's made clear that he wants to hear a compromise offer.
SHAPIRO: When they were last at the White House, he walked out of the room. Is that the way to get to a compromise?
BACON: I don't think it is. I really think that either side here are talking at each other but not with each other. And right now, there's a lot of huffing and puffing. And I think this stuff should be hammered out, and it should become a win-win situation. We do need border security. We need targeted areas with a steel barrier. But we also need better screening devices for vehicles and some of the things that the Democrats have called for. This begs for a compromise. And right now, we're just seeing people with their heels dug in.
SHAPIRO: At what point do you think the pain of people not getting paid outweighs the benefits of border security?
BACON: Well, I think we're already seeing that pain right now. I'm not sure one when that point is. But why should it be that the president be the sole one to take that? This should be a shared decision between the speaker, the minority leader and president. It shouldn't be - this should be where we - both sides find solution. It should - why should it be the one side...
SHAPIRO: Sure. But in the search for that solution, is there a point where the pain of people not getting paid outweighs the benefits that you would get from having the border security that Republicans and the president are asking for?
BACON: I'm sure there is a point. I don't know how to quantify it, frankly. But we can't afford to have a breakdown on airport security, as one example, our Coast Guard. At some point, we have to still have a country that functions.
SHAPIRO: You serve on the Agriculture Committee. And the Department of Agriculture is shut down and can't process payments to farmers impacted by tariffs. Is that hurting farmers in Nebraska?
BACON: It is having impact. And it should be as short-lived as possible. I personally think if the - Nancy Pelosi came in and said 2.5 billion or something, and let's talk about TPS, the temporary protected status, or - we would have a deal. It would be done in a day.
SHAPIRO: If you were negotiating on behalf of this White House, what concessions would you make?
BACON: Well, I would take a number somewhere in the middle. Or you also - there's other things that we want to resolve. I think, for example, that we need to find a solution to the temporary protected-status individuals who are here in this country legally. So I think that we put some other things that solves two or three different issues that our country needs, to include maybe DACA.
I'd be willing to have that discussion. I support, you know, a permanent residence for DACA. On the border security itself, I realize the wall should only be a portion of it. We do need screening devices. We need more judges. And so there's an opportunity to do a more holistic approach that I think folks from both parties would support.
SHAPIRO: Congressman John Bacon, Republican of Nebraska, thanks for joining us today.
BACON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.