With the partial government shutdown over and fresh negotiations on border security underway, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said on Sunday that lawmakers can reach an agreement on “physical barriers” for the border but not necessarily the border wall that President Donald Trump envisions.
“I think what will happen is that the efforts to continue to build physical barriers, which have gone on in the last two administrations, will continue but not to the degree that the president has requested,” Collins told Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Collins said that an agreement to strengthen security along the southern border will likely include a combination of technology, more Border Patrol agents and immigration judges, and physical barriers, but not necessarily a wall across its full length.
Her remarks come after Trump on Friday signed into a law a bill to reopen the government, ending the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The end to the shutdown means 800,000 federal workers who have gone without a paycheck will get back pay under a bill sponsored by Collins that Trump signed into law earlier this month.
Trump backed down from his demand that Congress give him more than $5 billion for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in exchange for reopening the government. The deal reached between the White House and congressional leaders funds the government through Feb. 15 without any money for a border wall while negotiations resume over border security continue.
In a tweet on Friday, Trump tried to fend off criticism from those who wanted him to keep fighting, saying “This was in no way a concession.”
While some rank-and-file voters told the Associated Press that supported Trump in his showdown with Congress, a majority of Americans blamed the president for the shutdown, with an AP-NORC poll showing the prolonged stalemate even dragged down his approval rating from 42 percent to 34 percent in a month.
That drop came as the pain from the shutdown began to spread. S&P Global Ratings on Friday estimated that the 35-day government shutdown cost the U.S. economy about $6 billion. Another study estimated that the government owes about $4.7 billion in back wages to federal workers, a number that would have jumped higher had the shutdown extended beyond Friday.
“Shutdowns are never good policy, ever. They are never to be used as a means to achieve any kind of goal no matter how important that goal may seem to be,” Collins said, adding that shutdowns also cause “tremendous harm” to federal workers and their families and others who rely on government services caught in the crossfire.
As the shutdown entered its 35th day, pressure began intensifying on the White House and Congress to get the government reopened. Flight delays were reported at many U.S. airports amid staffing shortages, and FBI officials said the shutdown was hampering cybercrime investigations. Federal workers also found themselves turning to food pantries, and even prospective buyers were unable to close on homes because they depended on mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When asked whether Congress and the White House were slow to realize the impact of the shutdown, Collins said it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Collins, who led a bipartisan effort to end the 16-day government shutdown in 2013, said she heard about the hardships federal employees in Maine endured during previous shutdowns.
“So I don’t know how any member of the administration, or of Congress, could think that a shutdown was a worthy pursuit. It never is,” Collins said.
But with the government reopened until Feb. 15 and a bipartisan committee set to begin negotiating an agreement on border security, the prospect of another shutdown looms should negotiators emerge with a stalemate in the coming weeks.
Collins said the best result would be an agreement on border security and to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
“No more short-term, stopgap funding measures, and we cannot have the threat of a government shutdown hanging over our people and our economy,” Collins said.
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Trump’s goal is to work with Congress.
“What he wants to do is fix this the way that things are supposed to get fixed with our government which is through legislation,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said the president didn’t want another shutdown, but he would do it if necessary.
“Keep in mind he’s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border,” he said.