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Democratic Rep. David Price Reacts To Trump's State Of The Union Address


One of the big questions hanging over last night's State of the Union address was what exactly the president might say about the border and that wall he wants. Well, here you go.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built.


KELLY: The president went on to say walls work, walls save lives. In other words, he did not appear to be backing down one smidge on the issue that was at the center of the 35-day government shutdown and which remains central to avoiding another shutdown. A committee of lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, is racing to put together a compromise on border security before the next deadline - 17 members of Congress, among them, North Carolina Democrat David Price.

Congressman Price, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DAVID PRICE: Thank you, good to be with you.

KELLY: What went through your mind as you listened to the president last night?

PRICE: The speech had been billed as a possible new beginning for the president, even a pivot in his presidency, that we were going to see a new Donald Trump preaching cooperation and compromise. That seemed pretty scripted, pretty contrived and that it was indeed that way was confirmed then when he pivoted not too far into that speech to a 15-minute diatribe on immigration.

KELLY: Give me a sense, Congressman, of where the conference deliberations stand. The opening offer, I know, from your side, from House Democrats, included no funding for a physical barrier. Is that still where you all are?

PRICE: Well, it certainly was the opening offer, and it's our preferred position. We're having discussions, though, about the full range of border security needs and, for that matter, Homeland Security needs. We know that if you're talking about where the drugs are coming in and where you could really make a difference on the border, really the way to do that is to fortify the ports of entry, to have more personnel, to have better equipment and also to have judges who clear out the backlog of these asylum cases. I mean, there are lots of things that we can and should address. And that's where we're stressing we should be as Democrats.

KELLY: The thing about the negotiations that you're in the middle of is that you had, I guess, the advantage of going in knowing exactly where everybody stood. I mean, there was no doubt in the sense of what the position's going in were. Has there been progress in terms of getting anywhere closer to a middle path?

PRICE: Well, we've had staff work going on continually. We've had, of course, the committee leaders working on this.

KELLY: So a lot of work but any progress?

PRICE: A lot of work, no signs yet that we have - you know, that the clouds have parted. I do think left to ourselves as Republican and Democratic appropriators - assuming the president doesn't blow this up - I think there's a good chance we can come up with a workable plan. And I certainly hope we'll be allowed to do so. But that Homeland bill is tough - very tough, of course, if the president makes these demands. But even if he doesn't, there are partisan differences on Homeland Security that make that especially tall order.

KELLY: Is there more information? Is there a briefing that would be useful to you as y'all negotiate going forward? Or are you at a point where you've got the information you need and it's just trying to figure out where a middle path might be?

PRICE: Honestly, I think we're at a pretty good point with respect to information. That doesn't mean it's easy to agree on these things. But right now, we just need to work with the information we have, keep the government open and get a workable bill together for the rest of this year.

KELLY: So what comes next? I know the big deadline is February 15, after which the president is threatening to shut down the government again. But you all on this conference committee have set a goal to file something this week. Is that right? What is that going to look like?

PRICE: Ideally, that's what we would do. I have no idea whether we're going to meet that goal. But that's what we're working towards still. It'd be nice a full week in advance of the absolute deadline to know how close we are to an agreement and then to be able to consider it in both chambers in an orderly way.

KELLY: So are you looking at a couple of all-nighters these next couple nights?

PRICE: Well, it has happened before, but I hope not. I think we've had a good process. That's not to say it's easy, but we'll see if we can meet this deadline. It would be better. It would be better not to be having to get all kinds of waivers and special rules to consider something at the very last minute.

KELLY: Congressman Price, thank you for taking the time in the middle of a very busy week. We appreciate it.

PRICE: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Democrat David Price of North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.