Rep. David Price talks government shutdown with ABC11's Jonah Kaplan

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Rep. David Price, D-NC, met with ABC11's Jonah Kaplan on the 24th day of the federal government shutdown to talk about why leaders across the country have not been able to come to a consensus and get the government back up and running.

Below is a transcript of the interview:

Kaplan: My first question is - what are you doing here? I'm glad you're taking time to talk to us, but why aren't you in Washington negotiating to end this shutdown?

Rep. Price: Well that's a first good question. I'm headed back to Washington today but we should be there until this gets solved. It's an outrageous situation. It's now the longest in American history and people may forget that President Trump had said he'd sign a bill to keep the government open but he reneged on that. So that's where we're stuck and it's hard to negotiate when there's that kind of ultimatum is laid down. It's going to get worse because air traffic is going to be affected, farm payments will be affected, people in our transportation department looking for grants. They'll be affected.

Kaplan: If you can, take us inside the Caucus Room. When you're meeting with Speaker Pelosi - what's that like? Are there those within the party that says let's give more money to the wall?

Rep. Price: I've never seen it like this when you're facing a President who is laying down an ultimatum that he says he has to have his border wall or else...I've been in these situations before where it's tense. We've had things we've been negotiating before. Here it's just getting a report on what's the latest coming out of the White House. It really isn't a negotiation even if he does talk about himself as the Great Negotiator. It's more a report of getting his disposition that on any negotiation. It's not like we don't understand the need for border security. I understand it very well - I was chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee for four years and that was under the Bush Administration. We built fencing where it was needed and provided border patrols and agents. I didn't get my way all the time but it at least was a situation where it was a give and take.

Kaplan: You were the chair of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. And you supported money for a border fence before?

Rep. Price: That's a matter of public record. We have almost 700 miles of fence on the border.

Kaplan: So what's the problem with filling in the rest of those gaps? If you've approved it before, you've been intimately involved with a Republican administration, why not fill in the gaps?

Rep. Price: Most of what's coming over now comes through the ports of entry. It comes concealed in automobiles. It comes in ways that a fence would have nothing to do with. And if you're talking about the undocumented immigrant population, it are folks mainly who overstay your visas. A wall is irrelevant. Let's beef up those ports of entry. Right now they're understaffed. Legitimate commerce and legitimate movement of people is hindered by a lack of personnel. You have surveillance equipment that could help, you have tracking of people in the country that could help. The President has made a thing of this wall.

Kaplan: The President went on national television and he talked about a national security crisis and humanitarian crisis. Do you agree with those characterizations?

Rep. Price: I agree there's a humanitarian crisis - largely of the administration's own making. I also agree there are desperate situations especially in Central America. They are situations that need to be addressed. There's a humanitarian crisis that we are pressing (President Trump) very hard. That's why people are seeking asylum.

Kaplan: Let's imagine this was President Romney or President Pence or anybody but President Trump demanding money for a border wall. Would the Democratic response be this adamant about a border wall. Is this about Trump? Is this about stopping the president or is it something bigger than that?

Rep. Price: Well Trump has made this about himself.

Kaplan: But that doesn't mean you have to take the bait.

Rep. Price: We don't have to take the bait but we had an agreement with Trump that was going to keep the government open and keep talking about this. Democrats are willing and have been willing to invest in immigration security, border security and we've been pushing for years that solves the larger comprehensive immigration reform problem. That's still where we're coming from. If the President wants to put forward border security proposals, we don't need to shut down the government over this to be discussing those things. One of the fallacies of recent years is that people think the only way you show you care about something is to shut down the government. That's nonsense. That's a formula for chaos. We've put forward a two-part program: One is let's reopen the government so the TSA agents and prison guards and everybody can get back to work. Number two, let's do a continuing resolution for a month so we can keep talking.

Kaplan: Isn't that just punting the issue? You've been punting for 10 years. I remember as an intern on Capitol Hill - it was the same discussion. So what good is punting going to do when maybe this is the leverage to get it done?

Rep. Price: That's a dangerous path to go down if you're notion is when I really want something the way I'm going to show I want is to throw a tantrum and shut the government down. That's a formula for chaos. I think the American people are fed up with that. We say get the government open.

Kaplan: Is your opposition to the wall just that it won't work - that it's not going to be a good investment of taxpayer money? Or is it you find this offensive and it's a political thing about our status of being a nation of immigrants but you acknowledge it could work?

Rep. Price: It certainly is not a good investment of taxpayer dollars. These ports of entry - the places where people come in and where people bring in illegal cargo and where a certain number of illegal persons come in. I'm telling you that's not adequately monitored and if someone is really serious about this they need to take that on instead of a notion of a medieval wall that will solve all of our problems. There's no escaping that Donald Trump has made this a symbol of his approach to immigration and it is tearing this country apart. Immigration policy has been a particular sore point for this administration and there's no question this fight has gotten more intense because of that.

Kaplan: We can sit here and lament how we got here - but how do we move this forward? Are Democrats willing to give a little more or have you drawn a line in the sand?

Rep. Price: We're not shoving it down the President's throat. We're saying if you need another month, let's take it, but for goodness sake let's get the government open.
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