The federal government is in the third week of a partial shutdown that is affecting a wide range of programs and services, from the National Wildlife Refuge system and national parks to funding intended to help farmers hurt by the 2018 trade war.
At the center of the standoff is President Donald Trump’s request for $5 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
Iowa’s senior senator says he’s confident that a compromise on immigration can be found, potentially with a smaller dollar figure for the president’s wall.
Republican Chuck Grassley also says he supports the president’s immigration goals. But if the president declares a national emergency, as Trump has threatened to do, Grassley says he would “be pretty defensive of Congress’s power to appropriate money.”
The president’s use of emergency powers would skirt the need for Congressional approval.
Grassley says such a move would likely end up in court.
“He thinks he has the power,” Grassley said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning. “I think if he exercises that power, it’s going to be challenged in the court and we’re going to have to respect what the court has done.
But Grassley insists Congressional committees have plenty of experience finding compromises on tough issues, such as a dollar figure both sides can agree on. The two parties do have some shared immigration goals, he says, but the Democrats need to stop categorizing the proposed wall along the southern border as “immoral,” a word House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has used.
“If wasn’t immoral 12 years ago or 10 years ago, it can’t be immoral today,” Grassley said. “Besides, national security is the number one priority of the federal government.”
Grassley is referring to a vote in 2006 in which many Senate Democrats, including the current minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, agreed to build 700 miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico.
The fact-checking website PolitiFact says that fence was less ambitious than the wall Trump has proposed and the 2006 bill also funded increased technology for immigration control and other measures.