The partial government shutdown, already a record, hit day 28 on Friday. The dispute over President Donald Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding seems to have settled into trench warfare, with both sides lobbing shots but seemingly giving little ground.
Fox News Radio's Guy Benson & Marie Harf sat down with Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-OH) to discuss how this is impacting her state and the people outside of the Beltway
Marie Harf: [00:00:00] It is Friday January 18th 2019. The government is still shut down day 28 I think. So we're pushing on a month here. But as we've been the whole time guy and I are still at work here on Benson and Harf thank you for joining the show tonight. Happy to have you spend a little bit of your Friday with us. And we've been covering the shutdown so much we've been talking about the real people that are being impacted. We've been talking about the politics of all of this guy and we're really lucky to be joined on the on the line right now by one of the people who is right in the middle of this fight down the street on Capitol Hill. Congresswoman Annie Kuster she's a Democrat from New Hampshire. My adopted state of New Hampshire. She works on small business issues veterans issues the House Agriculture Committee a number of issues in her work in Congress and has been out front talking about the shutdown. So Congresswoman thank you so much for joining the show tonight.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:00:54] Well delighted to be with you. Thank you for having me.
Marie Harf: [00:00:58] So talk a little bit about I know you've been out there speaking with the rest of the New Hampshire delegation about how this is impacting your state. I want to start by asking you exactly that question what are you hearing from your constituents on the ground outside of Washington about the shutdown and what they think should be done to end it.
Rep. Kuster [00:01:18] Well I've got to tell you Marie I just spent the day today I was in a town called Claremont New Hampshire a working class town on the western border. I was meeting in the morning with a group of women at a domestic violence shelter and I've got to tell you it was heart wrenching. These women had so much anxiety they had been told that the shelter might have to close because the funding had not been coming through. These are violence against women groups that go to the local communities and funding through various programs. Fortunately for us last night that because someone was able to get the office open in the grant process they will have funding to June but just giving you a sense of the anxiety these women who are making changes in their lives in a good way. They are leaving abusive relationships sexual assault domestic violence and they're getting job and going to school but they need a little bit of help. And there's no become productive citizens paying taxes like the rest of us in our community. So that's the kind of story I worry about the safety and the security frankly the TSA agent that aren't getting paid. The Coast Guard here in New Hampshire not getting paid. And the ultimate irony for me the Customs and Border Patrol agents on the Canadian border not getting paid. And so we've got a lot of threats here that we're concerned about this shutdown is certainly not making people safer and more secure in their lives.
Guy Benson: [00:03:09] Congressman thanks for being here. I have to say I'm not an adoptive New Hampshire right. But we have very close friends who have a place up our newfound Lake which is gorgeous. And I was having my summers there. There you go. It is. It really is gorgeous. We had a Thanksgiving with them one year up there and it was it was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. You didn't know you were going to get all this New Hampshire love. It was amazing. I'm telling you guys come back anytime and I was say Oh I believe I will because I didn't have that with the governor in Portsmouth as well. I spoke at an event for the Log Cabin Republicans and it was beautiful I've never been to Portsmouth. And just like a new level. So we're delighted.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:03:53] It is like living in a calendar. So we welcome everyone but particularly wer are coming up on the season of Politico tourism. Yeah we have probably a half of the presidential candidates out there this week. Although we're about to get two feet of snow they're going to know what it's like to run for.
Guy Benson: [00:04:15] Yeah they're going to learn a much bigger fan of New Hampshire in the summer and fall than I am in the wintertime. But Congresswoman I want to ask you I think the big sticking point we all understand is border security and what exactly would constitute additional funding for border security including some of that money going to physical barriers. And I know Trump has called the wall for a long time.
Guy Benson: [00:04:41] He seems to have backed away from that formulation the president referring to it as barriers. There are a number of Democrats in the House and Senate who say that they are open to more barriers. Many have voted for that in the recent past. If the government just to start with if the government were to get reopened and there were to be a serious negotiation about increasing funding for border security would you be open to additional barriers along strategic portions of the southern border.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:05:09] Well Guy you've put your finger right on it and let me just say thank you for saying if the government reopens because that's the sticking block. But I don't disagree with you. That's a place to start. I'm quite confident we could find common ground. The big issue is why I not the expert in border security. What we need is a comprehensive study of the border by experts in this field to tell us that for example right now we have 700 miles of barrier and in the urban areas that's the most effective technology but in mountainous or less related areas we need to use different technology. I've been learning we've been talking about it all week long. You'll be glad to know. And what we're learning about the latest technology there are certain cyber technology. There are drones that can be used if there are for example one of the big issues the president talks about is drugs. And I want to say first of all 90 percent of the illegal drugs are coming through our ports of entry not across the southern border but on the southern border we could be doing. I get to use the word X-ray technology but that's just to give you a sense of a layman's view of what that is. But is the type of technology where they can look into the car because these drugs are hidden up in the parts that you know they take the car apart put the drugs in put the car back together. Currently it's a very low percentage of vehicles that are being checked that way. Let's increase that. Let her have more in other countries what they do is they have along the border various PO's and places where people can buy line of sight or more personal. You know let's have the discussion about what is the personnel that we need at the border. So I like to refer to all of this is 21st century border security and that's important to me it's important to my constituents but it's no reason to hold the American people and frankly our economy hostage because the government is not open for business. So you and I if we sat down at the table we could definitely come to an agreement. But let's reopen the government. Let's have the hearings get the experts in and let's make the best modern 21st century decisions that keep our country safe.
Marie Harf: [00:07:59] Congresswoman I'm really glad that you brought up the urban versus more rural areas on the border because I am not an expert either on these issues but I've been talking to folks who work on the border. Some of your colleagues who represent border districts and this was something I wasn't as fully aware of the need for barriers in more urban areas because you know that time it's much easier for people to blend in and those are more helpful in more urban areas but really using the resources in the best possible way in some of these more areas seems common sense.
Rep. Kuster [00:08:34] You know you should get on really well. On this is my Republican colleague Will Hurd who represents the district on the Texas Mexico border. That is I want to say a thousand miles long. I do know that it takes more than a day to drive from one end to the other of his district. And he is one of the Republicans that's opposed to this sort of the symbolism of the wall as though it's going to be 2000 miles long and look like the Wall of China. That's not an effective use of our tax dollars. And if nothing else people in New Hampshire pride themselves they're very frugal and I represent the Democrats Republicans and independents who want to make sure that we have the smartest technology at the best price for the best security. And that's the conversation we need to have. So let's reopen the government. Have those hearings and get this done.
Guy Benson: [00:09:42] Congresswoman I think what the president what a lot of Republicans are shooting for now is nowhere near a 2000 mile concrete wall the way I think the president may have described it more on the campaign trail. It's several hundred miles of additional barriers and he's backed away from the concrete thing. I'm with you on this whole all of the above approach. I think in certain places we do need to listen to the experts. There was a great piece by NPR recently talking to border patrol where they say here are areas where more fencing and barriers and walls would actually be helpful including some mountainous terrain where they've had some trouble. But that's not the catch all solution everywhere you have to deploy different resources smartly different places. I guess one question for you my last question for you Congresswoman is I am trying to think of ways to get us out of this government shutdown and there has been this huge as you said a sticking point between your party and your party's leadership saying we're not going to negotiate any of this stuff until the government is back open. And the White House saying this is a leverage point. We need to get some assurances. What I would love to see happen maybe as a compromise would be for Speaker Pelosi and her team not to commit to any particular dollar amount or any particular specifics about what it would look like but get the White House to say we will reopen the government the Republicans will join with Democrats and vote for these six out of the seven agreed upon appropriations bills do a three week or four week C.R. on DHS and use that time to hammer out a negotiation. But to get to that point there is a commitment from both parties to increase substantially border security funding including some money unspecified for new barriers and sort of have that be the spirit of the conversation moving forward with some public commitment without any dollars or specifics being hashed out. So both sides can say OK we didn't totally cave but we're moving to something more productive. What do you make of that Congresswoman.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:11:43] I'd say you're very good negotiator and I frankly I think that would have happened weeks ago if we hadn't got that flat no on the president's unwillingness to reopen the government until he got his quote unquote wall which you know that's not the practical solution if you just call it the wall. Now I think one thing that could move forward in this is likely to happen this week. We just taken over the government we just this week been on the committee working mightily all week get are we taken over the house to get our committee up and running. And I would expect that the House Homeland Security Committee under the Democratic leadership would be scheduling hearings as early as possible. We have certain rules about giving people sufficient noticeetc. But if what you're saying we could schedule those hearings commit to a viable debate commit to the latest and best technology. Look Democrats want a 21st century border security. We want our people to feel safe. New Hampshire is a great place to be talking about this because we are plagued by a very serious opioid epidemic. But let's talk in the actual information. It's only a small portion of that that comes over the southern border. So I think what we will want to be talking about is our ports of entry infrastructure for ports of entry talking about Customs and Border Patrol talking about the U.S. Postal Service the Sentinel is coming in in the mail for We had a hearing of literally criminal chemists in China trying to stay one step ahead of the on the synthetic opioids. So I agree with you. I think it actually needs to be even a bigger discussion which is infrastructure fighting this opioid epidemic fighting drugs. But at all of our ports of entry not it's not just the southern border. So I think you know they should also we can get worked out exactly what happened this week. I really do I think that the pressure I care to admit to the White House is oblivious to the pressure in people's lives. The DEA agent I'll just close with this. We have a federal prison in Burland New Hampshire not far from the Canadian border and we have dedicated public servants who are putting their life on the line going to work every day inside a federal prison. I'm proud to say there are some very good programs on drug rehabilitation job training. But let's let's not be naive. It's a tough job and those people are not getting paid. And I don't think any American thinks that's right. So reopen the government. Let's have the discussion used to just about all of these techniques and technologies and new ideas. And that's what we're looking forward to do as we take over theU.S. towns and let the three branches move forward.
Marie Harf: [00:15:11] Congresswoman we're up on a break. We will have to have you back because I wanted to ask you all about the Democratic agenda and retaking the House and what that looks like.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:15:19] Of course.
Marie Harf: [00:15:19] Picking a seat in New Hampshire as well but we're up on a break so we want to thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster a Democrat of New Hampshire for joining the show tonight and talking about the shutdown which is now in day 28 pushing into a month pretty soon. Thank you for joining the show.
Rep. Kuster (D-NH): [00:15:34] I look forward to being back with you. Thanks for having me.
Marie Harf: [00:15:38] Have a wonderful weekend in New Hampshire as well. OK we're going to take a break and we will be back right after this.