U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, told The Indiana Gazette editorial board Friday that the ongoing partial shutdown of federal government operations is “maddenly frustrating.”
The state’s junior senator also said he is open to a compromise to resolve border security issues that contributed to that shutdown, including some immigration reforms.
For instance, Toomey said, “I would be open to something on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as part of this mix.”
DACA refers to approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country prior to 2007 and before their 16th birthday, but who otherwise haven’t broken the law and have either graduated with a high school equivalent or served in the military.
There were reports Friday in various media that Senate Republicans included DACA in negotiations over a border wall, and that the Trump administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to dismantle the DACA program.
However, Toomey “really believes” neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., want a compromise, and that President Trump opened the door for their stance.
“The president made a big tactical mistake when he said the shutdown would be on him,” Toomey said.
The Pennsylvania Republican said Trump eventually may sign a “clean” bill to end the shutdown and not include funding for barriers along the Mexican border, but then declare a national emergency to fund them.
“It would be a big mistake,” Toomey said, because it could create a precedent for a future president.
He suggested Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as an example, saying she could decide on gun controls “because the murder rate is too high,” or to ban off-shore drilling to deal with climate change.
“I think we are in a very unfortunate spot,” Toomey said.
Toomey said most senators have voted in the past for tens of millions of dollars for construction of a wall along the border, and said construction of several hundred miles of barriers “is a very reasonable request,”
The senator added, “No one is proposing a 2,000-mile continuous wall,” and that $5 billion proposed by the president for the southern border only would result “in a couple hundred miles at best.”
The three-week-old shutdown only covers a sliver of all government operations, “but it’s an important sliver,” Toomey told Gazette reporters and editors.
“Sixty percent of the government is on autopilot,” the Lehigh County senator said.
As for those who haven’t received paychecks in three weeks, Toomey said, “everyone is going to be paid, but you have to wait for it.”
He said to discourage future shutdowns, he would like to have a mechanism kick in that would allow for automatic continuation of government programs at the end of a fiscal year, perhaps with a decrease in funding of 1 percent or 2 percent.