Dem Rep. Dingell: "This Wall Has Become A Symbol Of Total Breakdown In Washington"


Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) called on lawmakers to "talk" it out and reopen the government. The Democratic Congresswoman also lamented how the border wall has caused "total breakdown" in Washington.

"This wall has become a symbol of total breakdown in Washington, which we have to stop," Dingell said Tuesday. "I’m not going to prove it the way that it is now. Let's get in a room and talk about it and figure it out by February 8th, but let's reopen the government, which is what I think we need to be doing."

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Happy New Year. I think it's going to be a good one. I certainly hope it is.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MICHIGAN): I’m glad 2018 is gone, quite frankly.

HARLOW: Well, thank you for joining me.

Look, we know what's going to happen on January 3rd, on Thursday. The House is going to vote and pass this bill to reopen the government. It's going to include $1.3 billion for border security. It's not going to include direct wall funding.

Mitch McConnell has been very clear, he's not going to bring anything to the Senate floor that the president won't sign. Mark Meadows, who talks a lot to the president, called it a nonstarter. He tweeted a $1.3 billion Democratic wish list that includes zero money for a border barrier is a nonstarter.

If you know it's a nonstarter with those Republicans, and with the president, why make this move? Why vote to pass it?

DINGELL: Well, first of all, why is it a nonstarter? It would fund the other six agencies. We're making these public servants who aren't Republicans or Democrats, just there trying to serve the people, pawns in the middle of all this. It would fund six other departments through the end of the year, so we can get regular bills passed in the orderly fashion we're supposed to be doing it.

It would take homeland security, it would extend it to February 8th so we can reopen the government so the Custom and Border Patrol agents, other Homeland Security people who are working, not sure when their next paycheck is going to come, and give us time to sit down and negotiate, and I’m not somebody who thinks compromise is a dirty word, but it would take the homeland security budget --

HARLOW: Great, great, compromise. Let's talk about it right here, right now. What are you willing to give toward a border wall?

DINGELL: How about comprehensive immigration? How about DACA?

HARLOW: I wish we had 20 minutes for this interview and we'll have you back and talk more about that, but what amount of money are you willing to give to vote for the border wall and what would you want in return? Is there a number?

DINGELL: You know what I want? I want a package that's going to work. We had hundreds of studies. So, why aren't we increasing the number of border patrol, the amount of officers at the border? What about looking at drones and other technology to actually keep the border safe?

And people are already talking about problems with the walls, tunneling underneath. Let's sit down, get the experts at the table, and agree to something. This wall has become a symbol of total breakdown in Washington, which we have to stop.

HARLOW: So, do you then agree with Democrat former governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, who is a likely 2020 presidential candidate, who put it this way?


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: The Democrats should not give an inch on this. Donald Trump owns this. He's been in the White House. He's been isolated. He's too emotional. He's too unstable.


HARLOW: Is he right? Should Democrats not give an inch on this?

DINGELL: You know, I don't think compromise is a dirty word. That's one thing that I have always said. I don't put hard lines down in the sand the way a lot of other people do.

I sure don't -- I’m not going to prove it the way that it is now. Let's get in a room and talk about it and figure it out by February 8th, but let's reopen the government, which is what I think we need to be doing.
HARLOW: So, here's how Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sees it. In terms of at least the optics for Democrats here. Let's roll it.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is, they want Trump to lose more than they want the country to win, I fear. At the end of the day, there's a deal to be had.


HARLOW: Of course, there's a deal to be had. There's always a deal to be had. Given that, do you fear at a minimum an optics issue here for Democrats?

DINGELL: I want to say this. President Trump owns this. He's the one who said in the room I will own this, and he hasn't called Nancy Pelosi since December 11th. Those two have not talked since December 11th. He doesn't want this.

I don't ever want to see a president fail. You know why I don’t want to see a president fail? Because it's the country that fails when that happens.

I want to see us reopen this government. I think everybody looks bad. This is -- we need to -- but I’m not so desperate that I’ll agree to something that doesn't make sense.

But the fact of the matter is, we need to get back to Washington on January 3rd. We're all coming back. Most of us will be back there tomorrow. And we need to work together.

And that's my new year's resolution. I’m going to work with everybody because I think Americans are tired of partisan bickering.

HARLOW: Amen to that, let's see if the New Year brings that. If you do have a number, you saw the Vice President Mike Pence put $2.5 billion on the table. Jackie Speier, your fellow Democratic woman in congress, said she could live with $2.5 billion in wall funding if it came with a DACA deal. Let me know if you come up with a number, but if not --

DINGELL: Numbers are sort of -- I’m probably where Jackie is, but I’m not going to say. I’m not sold to any number. I want to see what the total package is. I think people need to be in a room talking and getting in agreement.

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