Americans who tuned in to hear President Donald Trump’s Tuesday evening primetime speech addressing border security, and the Democratic rebuttal, didn’t hear a lot of new information.
Trump said that funding for border security is critical to keeping the country safe, and that he invited Congressional leadership to meet at the White House on Wednesday to discuss a spending bill and border security. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the President is “manufacturing a crisis” at the border, and asked that he separate border funding from the partial government shutdown.
The split along party lines is mirrored in reactions from Pennsylvania lawmakers. Republicans stood by the President and blamed the shutdown on Democrats. Democrats say that finding improvements to border security and the immigration system are important, but that Congress needs to prioritize reopening the government.
Here’s a breakdown of reactions from Western Pennsylvania's Congressmen and the state's U.S. Senators:
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA):
“President Trump shut down the government to force the construction of a wall that security experts say won’t work. A concrete or steel wall is not border security. Instead of continuing his shutdown, President Trump should commit to signing the Republican bills passed by the Democratic House that would reopen the government and secure the border with over $1 billion in funding.
Once the government is reopened, Congress should have a substantial debate on how to fix our broken system and begin work on legislation that mirrors the bipartisan 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill. That legislation passed with 68 votes in the Senate and provided $40 billion in funding for border security. It also provided order, rules and certainty for individuals and businesses and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA):
“We heard a clear case for boosting security and humanitarian aid funding at our southern border. I support these objectives, provided taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively.
President Trump has invited Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer and others to the White House [Wednesday] to try and end this partial government shutdown. At that meeting, I hope an agreement is reached for the sake of hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families, who are in jeopardy of missing their next paycheck. There is a deal to be made given that Democrats repeatedly supported billions in funding to maintain and expand the existing 350 miles of security fencing along the southern border prior to President Trump’s election.”
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-18):
“President Trump repeated the same fear-mongering talking points and exaggerated, misleading half-truths that he’s pitched over and over again since the beginning of his campaign. Most Americans aren’t buying it.
The only crisis we’ve got is the one that President Trump has created. The shutdown is doing more to undermine Americans' safety than the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Everybody knows that our immigration system is broken and ought to be fixed – and I certainly support smart, effective improvements in our nation’s border security – but the shutdown should end now. Once we’ve got the government up and running again, and all our government workers are back serving the American people, we can work as long as it takes to find common ground on improving border security.”
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16):
“President Trump showed strong leadership and told our entire nation the harsh truth about the crisis at our southern border and the real consequences of illegal immigration. He made his case directly to the American people, who care about defending our country from crime, drugs, and terrorism just as much as he does. A sovereign nation has a right to secure its borders.
It is clear to me and to most Americans that constructing a wall along portions of our southern border is not only justifiable but long overdue. The recent murder of Officer Ronil Singh in California – a heroic immigrant to our country who not only followed our laws but devoted his life to enforcing them – by an illegal immigrant gang member is just the latest example of why an intrusion-stopping wall is so necessary. To be very clear: there is nothing controversial about enhancing our security by building a border wall—there are currently 700 miles of border barrier already in place along our southern border. As a candidate, President Trump passionately campaigned on this issue and won.
As the president emphasized, the ongoing partial government shutdown is totally unnecessary and can be ended tomorrow. The House passed a responsible funding bill that the president is ready to sign; at least half the Senate supports that bill. In fact, more than 150 congressional Democrats voted for steel wall funding as recently as last spring.* Senate Democrats who supported a border wall in the past with their words and their votes need to get over their personal hatred of President Trump and put the safety of the American people first.”
Rep. Conor Lamb (D-17):
“Nothing has changed, there was no new information in these speeches. We know that hundreds of thousands of workers will miss a paycheck on Friday if we don’t reopen the government. And we know the solution. We need to reopen the government while we come to a bipartisan agreement on border security. The House and Senate have both already passed bipartisan bills to do that. In the House we are not giving up. I will continue to vote for these bills, along with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, for as long as it takes to reopen the government.”
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-14):
“It is past time for Congressional Democrats to work on a bipartisan funding bill with President Trump that will open the government, get federal employees back to work, and provide much needed investment to address the security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
Our government’s most important job is to ensure the safety and security of the American people. I stand with President Trump in demanding a bipartisan funding package that secures the southern border to stem the tide of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and deadly drugs from entering our country.
This shutdown never should have happened. It is unfortunate that Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Congressional Democrats are more concerned with keeping an open border than an open government. They continue to put politics before the needs of the American people by bringing up partisan bills that have no chance of passing in the Senate and being signed into law.”