Local congressmen respond to federal shutdown

December 28, 2018 07:56 AM

The bitter back and forth over funding a border wall will likely keep the federal government partially closed until 2019.  

While President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders were in Washington on Thursday, there is no sign they are anywhere near a compromise to reopen and fund the government.   

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News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke sat down with Congressman Joe Morelle, who was just sworn-in following a special election in November, to get his take on the shutdown and where negotiations stand. 

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): "You win the special election, you show up to Washington and then this happens."

Congressman Morelle: "In some ways, the good news is that I've had a long history in government so I've seen just about everything. This is obviously something I haven't experienced directly but there have been parallels to it and there are times when people don't agree."  

Jennifer Lewke: "You're very experienced in Albany but as a rookie in Washington, what role do you play in all of this?"

Congressman Morelle: "Well look, I've been in meetings with my Democratic colleagues.  In meetings with the Majority Leader and the Speaker and I just express my opinions.  The folks in this community have one representative in Congress and that's me, so my job is to make sure that their interests are protected and I don't think it matters how long you've been there."

Jennifer Lewke: "Can you explain what the sticking points are?"

Congressman Morelle: "Well, the President agreed to a deal that would fund the government but then he went back and listened to Rush Limbaugh and watched Fox News and now he doesn’t want to live up to it, he’s got to satisfy his base.  Now, we're in the middle of nowhere because he's insisting on a project which most experts agree doesn't enhance border security and if you're a New Yorker in my mind, we pay more than $50 billion a year to the federal government that we don't get back in services so to do that (increase the amount of funding for a border wall) now for a vanity project that isn't going to enhance border security to me is wrong-headed.  So, I wish really, the President would frankly gather the strength to be able to withstand some criticism and be able to do this, let's move on and then let's start talking about a real path to citizenship, let's talk about what's really needed at the border, I think there's a lot of areas of common ground we can find."

Congressman Morelle: "If we pass a continuing resolution that takes us into the early part of next year, it gives us time to start working on those issues." 

Jennifer Lewke: "You talk about continuations, a lot of people would look at that and say, maybe that's just kicking the can further down the road and we don't want to keep getting ourselves in these shutdown situations."

Congressman Morelle: "Well, I agree with that but the problem is you're already into a shutdown so you need at least a short-term resolution here so people who are going to work every day can be certain they're getting paid."

Jennifer Lewke: "There are constituents in this district who believe that a border wall is necessary and say, President Trump, hold out as long as you can.  What would your message be to them?"

Congressman Morelle: "Well, what I believe is, you should rely on the people who do this for a living who are experts in this field and the vast majority say a border wall doesn't enhance border security…It's not as though this budget doesn't have funding for border security, it has 1.6 billion dollars in it for border security so I think it would be nice if we sort of sat down and put the rhetoric to the side and thought about what is really important to safeguarding America and Americans and how do we let people who want to come to this country for the right reasons, how do we let them do that and that is the conversation we've been having."

Other local congressional delegates have also spoken on the shutdown, with Republican John Katko releasing a statement saying he believes both sides of the aisle have handled the situation poorly and he does not support a shutdown. While his fellow Republican, Chris Collins, has not gotten back to us, he requested that his pay be withheld the last time there was a shutdown. 


Jennifer Lewke

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