CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Midnight Friday would mark the longest government shutdown in United States history.
United States Senator Thom Tillis, the junior senator in North Carolina, sat down with WBTV to discuss what has transpired in Washington D.C. In an interview Friday afternoon, the senator made it clear – he’s ready to get back to work.
“The decision to move forward is one that rests in the president’s hands and in the Speaker and minority leader’s hands in the senate. We’re prepared to work, but we can only work if Senator (Chuck) Schumer is prepared to negotiate and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi. We can’t do it without them,” said Tillis.
President Donald Trump has continued to push lawmakers to fund the construction of a wall on the country’s southern border. Democrats have been refusing to do so. Tillis thinks it’s time for lawmakers to come to a compromise.
“You have to realize President Trump asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘if I funded the government would you sit down and work with me, and possibly work on border security?’ and she said, ‘no’,” explained the republican senator.
Tillis feels the Speaker’s response is unacceptable. When asked whether he supports the construction of a border wall, the North Carolina senator stated that a physical wall would only be one piece of the border security improvements that many feel are needed.
“A physical border wall is only one part of the equation,” explained Tillis.
He thinks that some lawmakers and members of the public are being confused by the semantics of the word, ‘wall’.
“There will be several hundred miles of fence or wall, no question about it. There will be a thousand miles or more that will not involve fences or walls, but it will be secure,” said Tillis. “Let’s get an all of the above approach that rightfully builds more walls and fences, but recognizes it goes beyond that.”
The senator said he has had personal discussions with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence regarding proposed security improvements at the border. He said they understand that the wall is just one part of the overhaul.
“They get it. They’re prepared to do it. If the other side is worried about using the word ‘wall’, let’s dispense with ‘wall’, but let’s agree that we have to secure the border,” said Tillis.
While Tillis does back the president’s request, he said he thinks Trump could frame his request for border security better in the public eye.
“The president understands the combination of things which is walls, fences, technology, personnel. That’s what he’s asking for. That’s what he’s asking to have funded,” said the senator.
President Trump has said he is considering declaring a national emergency because of immigration concerns at the southern border. Tillis said he would not agree with this move, arguing that those declarations need to be used judiciously.
“I do believe when you’re talking about millions or billions of doses of illicit drugs coming across the country and hundreds of people being trafficked coming across the border and hundreds of people dying crossing the border that there is maybe a case for a national emergency, but I really would prefer that the president not do it and that the leaders in congress work to fund the government,” said Tillis.
The senator said he is thankful for the federal employees who are currently working without pay because of the shutdown. He specifically referenced the Transportation Security Administration workers at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
“I thank them for what they’re doing and I want to work hard to get them back on the payroll,” said Tillis.
When asked if he had any thoughts on when the shutdown may come to an end, the senator responded saying, ‘it’s hard to tell’. Tillis said it could be days or weeks before lawmakers come up with a solution. His stance is clear – he’ll need a border security compromise before he’ll vote to end the shutdown.
“I’m here to support the president. If we don’t get funding for border security, then I’m not prepared to cast a vote to fund the government.”