Meet the Democrat who wants to cave: Minnesota congressman says let's give Trump his wall

Crack in the wall? Rep. Collin Peterson says House Democrats should capitulate to Trump and end shutdown

By Matthew Rozsa
January 24, 2019 5:15PM (UTC)
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Rep. Collin Peterson (AP/Danny Johnston)

A Democratic congressman said in a radio interview this week that he believes his colleagues should give President Trump the funding that he demands for a border wall in order to end the government shutdown. He appears to be the first member of the House majority to say on the record that Democrats should capitulate.

"Give Trump the money. I’d give him the whole thing … and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be," Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told the radio station KFGO on the program "News & Views," according to the station's website.


"Why are we fighting over this?" Peterson continued. "We’re going to build that wall anyway, at some time."

Many Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would likely disagree with that forecast. Pelosi has made clear she is not interested in offering concessions to Trump about the border wall, although it now appears likely that Democrats may offer an alternative border-security package at roughly the same price that does not include wall funding.

Peterson argued that the party should give him the money since a border wall is (in Peterson's mind) an inevitability anyway. Peterson is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.


Peterson, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, also told the radio station, "I don’t know if I want to give (Trump) a blank check, but I don’t want to preclude him from getting the money either, if he’s going to use the money correctly." He later added, "I don’t know how we get (to a deal). The White House hasn’t called me. When I bring up what I have to say (to Democrats), they look at me cross-eyed."

Democrats in Congress indicated on Wednesday that they were open to some kind of compromise measure with the president. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic caucus, told reporters that his party was considering measures that would increase law enforcement personnel at the border, improve monitoring technology and allocating other materials that could offer realistic ways of securing the border, according to the Associated Press.

Another Democratic leader, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, described these proposed measures to reporters on Wednesday as a "smart wall," a rhetorical device that seems calculated to create the possible terms of a compromise with the White House. Many immigration activists are unhappy with that language, and with the alleged terms of the Democratic counter-proposal.


"House Democrats, like the American people, support 21st-century border security," Jeffries told reporters, before adding that the House majority remained opposed to Trump's border wall because it was "a medieval border wall. That is a 5th-century solution to a 21st-century problem."

As House Democrats continue to figure out how to respond to Trump shutdown over his border wall demands, the Senate is considering two dueling proposals that are likely to fail. The one backed by Republicans would include the full $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the wall, while the Democratic bill would open the government through Feb. 8, with a promise to negotiate wall funding once the shutdown ends.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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