For the first time since taking office, President Trump came into the White House briefing room to make a pitch directly to reporters for his $5 billion border wall request.
Hours afterward, the new Democratic-led House passed a border package that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he won’t bring to the floor for a vote.
A measure to approve funding for all outstanding agencies except for the Department of Homeland Security passed 241-190, while another bill to extend DHS funding through Feb. 8 passed 239-192.
Now, there is a disagreement on the homeland security bill. So we have said, OK, we haven’t reached agreement, but we’re going to provide some more time so we can sit down as adults, hopefully, as rational, reasonable, common-sense people to come to an agreement. On something that we all agree with, the objective of keeping Americans safe, keeping our country safe, and keeping our borders secure is not in debate,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. “The only thing that’s in debate are the means. We don’t agree with the president’s proposal. We don’t think is the proper or most effective and efficient means to keep our country safe.”
Trump, joined Thursday at the White House podium by leaders of the National Border Patrol Council, argued that his plans for a wall and holding an appropriations bill over the project are widely supported.
“You can call it a barrier. You can call it whatever you want. But essentially, we need protection in our country. We’re going to make it good. The people of our country want it,” he said. “I have never had so much support, as I have in the last week, over my stance for border security, for border control and for, frankly, the wall or the barrier.”
A new Hill-HarrisX survey found 35 percent of Americans polled in favor of border security but wanting “better options” than a wall, 34 percent supporting a wall as “the best path for making America safer at its borders,” and 31 percent calling it “totally unnecessary and not worth the expense.”
Trump dismissed calls for more advanced border security measures. “Having a drone fly overhead — and I think nobody knows much more about technology, this type of technology, certainly, than I do,” he said. “Having drones and various other form of sensors, they’re all fine, but they’re not going to stop the problems that this country has.”
NBPC president Brandon Judd was invited to the microphone by Trump, and said that “we need those physical barriers.”
“Anywhere that you look, where we have built walls, they have worked. They have been an absolute necessity for Border Patrol agents in securing the border,” Judd said. “…There’s also a lot of talk on this shutdown, that federal employees do not agree with the shutdown. I will tell you that’s not true.”
Trump did not take questions from the media. He is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders midday today.