WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), today spoke on the Senate floor after voting in support of the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, legislation providing $5.7 billion for physical border barriers. After Democrats blocked the bill, Cassidy urged Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to negotiate a compromise and highlighted the fact that many rank-and-file Democrats are breaking with Pelosi and expressing support for physical barriers to secure the border.
Dr. Cassidy’s remarks are transcribed below.
CASSIDY: If I was sitting at home or in the [Senate] gallery right now, I’d be incredibly frustrated. I’m frustrated, but if I was home, I would be particularly frustrated. Why? Think of what we agree upon in this colloquy from both the Democratic and the Republican side of the aisle.
We agree that border security is important. We agree that it is one of the primary functions of the federal government. We agree that there needs to be more money.
And although on legislation we’ve not agreed, we certainly have statements from Democrats, of course as well as Republicans, that barriers are also important. Collin Peterson, a Democrat on the House side, put it well. I’m quoting him:
“Give Trump the money. I’d give him the whole thing. … Put strings on it so you make sure he puts the walls where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We’re going to build that wall anyway at some time.”
That was from January 22, 2019. And my Democratic Senate colleagues have said something along the same line. Maybe not as point-blank, but they certainly have said it.
We’re agreed there. We agree that the American worker who continues to show up but is not getting paid needs to get paid. Those TSA agents, those flight controllers that we use as we go back and forth to our districts, God bless them.
More than 51,000 TSA agents working without pay. 10,000 air traffic controllers support staff remained furloughed. By the way, I and others have introduced legislation to pay those while they are working, and I think it is something we, the Senate, should take up.
We need a solution that fulfills our national security responsibilities, ends the shutdown and these workers get paid.
Now, I would say it’s time to move forward, negotiate, and come to the table. But you may ask, if Democrat and Republican Senators are all agreeing on this, why is it not happening? In fairness to President Trump, whose rhetoric sometimes inflames and sometimes pushes off, and as my colleague from Ohio says, sometimes describes things in a way which misrepresents his actual intent—it’s not a wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. It is a wall in certain places that are high-flow with pedestrian traffic.
But nonetheless, clearly we’ve come to a point where personality conflict between the president and the speaker [of the House] has put them at loggerheads and apparently unable to negotiate. It’s clear from our colloquy that senators on both sides of the aisle would like to come to a solution that secures the southern border, opens the government, and pays the worker.
And in fairness to the president, he’s put forward an opening offer. He has said he wants that money for the barrier, but he’s put other issues on the table that are near and dear to Democrats’ heart that hopefully would open the way to a compromise.
The way I can imagine it would work is that the speaker, she would put forward a counter proposal. I think that’s where we need to be. To rise above any personal dislike or any entrenched positions that people have come to, but rather come to a point where we recognize that the American people are better served if the folks serving them are getting paid and that it is important to secure our southern border, and that some sort of barrier will be part of that, as members of both parties have agreed to.
So it’s time to move forward, it’s time to negotiate. It’s time for the two principles to come to some sort of compromise. Clearly we in the Senate are willing to move forward. So Mr. President, with that, I yield the floor.