By Neal Earley @neal_earley
ROCKVILLE — In a meeting with the Montgomery County Council on Friday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) warned that the United States is facing a government shutdown in just about a week’s time.
Cardin spent Friday morning and afternoon with the County Council, answering questions from local officials during a working lunch. Among the biggest concerns for the Council members is the looming threat of a government shutdown as Democrats and Republicans try to work out a deal before the congressional session ends.
Much of the difficulty for a budget deal is from disagreement between Congressional Democrats and President Donald J. Trump on funding for a wall on the Mexican border. Cardin explained that funding for the wall was the only thing that could potentially cause a government shutdown.
“This is all about the president’s ego and agenda.,” Cardin said. “He believes that beating up on immigrants is good policy for his base, and he is going to continue to double down on that.”
Cardin explained, if the government were to shut down, it would not be a full shutdown, as most government workers would not be furloughed, but since many federal employees live and work in Montgomery County, the area is likely to still feel a major negative impact from one.
On Tuesday, Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) during which, neither side budged on their positions regarding a border wall. Cardin said he agreed with Pelosi, who said she would not make a deal with Trump on funding for the border wall in exchange for a solution to a solution for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as minors and were protected under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order.
Trump, who made the border wall a key campaign promise pledging that Mexico would fund it, said he would not back down from funding for the border wall, insisting he will shut down the government if Congress does not allocate the $5 billion in funding for it that Trump proposed.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security Chuck,” Trump told Schumer, “because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems — and drugs — pouring into our country.”
The shutdown could be just down to details.
While Trump ran on building a big wall during his campaign, members of his administration have explained that more border security officers and more fencing might constituent a “wall” along the border. Cardin explained to the County Council that Democrats in Congress don’t oppose increased funding for border security, including fencing along the border, but they oppose a solid concrete wall.
Cardin said a solid wall is costly for taxpayer and could hurt U.S. relations with Mexico.
“As long it’s not a concrete wall, we are willing to do that,” Cardin said.
Council members Gabe Albornoz (D-at large) and Tom Hucker (D-5) asked Cardin about funding for infrastructure projects, namely for transportation and transit.
“There does appear to some bipartisan support on the issue of infrastructure,” Albornoz said.
Cardin agreed, pointing to the recent passage of the Water Resources Development Act and $112,485 in grants that Congress allocated to replace water storage tanks in Chesapeake City.
Cardin noted that two key Republican senators, John Barrasso (R-Wy.), who chairs the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee, and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), who chairs the subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, are both supportive of an infrastructure plan. Cardin said he, along with Barrasso, Inhofe and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who serves as the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, could get a bipartisan deal on infrastructure done.
“And yes, you will be surprised that with Senator Barrasso, who represents Wyoming, Senator Inhofe who represents Oklahoma, they’ll be supporting our efforts for transit,” Cardin said.