Utah’s congressional representatives talk to KSL’s Dave & Dujanovic about the government shutdown

Jan 9, 2019, 2:59 PM
Utah congressional representatives...
Utah's six congressional representatives. From left to right: Sen. Mike Lee (Photo: Kristin Murphy / Deseret News), Sen. Mitt Romney (Photo: Associated Press), Rep. Rob Bishop (Photo: Ravell Call / KSL), Rep. Chris Stewart (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News), Rep. John Curtis (Photo: Isaac Hale / KSL), and Rep. Ben McAdams (Photo: Kristin Murphy / KSL).
(Photo: Kristin Murphy / KSL)

Six men represent Utah in the federal government. Our state has elected two senators and four representatives to speak for us to the nation; and at this moment, those six men are meant to be our voice in the midst of the government shutdown that has affected the pay of more than 800,000 federal workers.

Today, KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic invited every one of Utah’s congressional representatives to appear on the show and let the people who elected them hear where they stand.

Every one of our state’s representatives responded to our requests, though Rep. Ben McAdams and Sen. Mitt Romney are still trying to find time in their busy schedules to appear on the show.

The rest, however, called Dave & Dujanovic to talk about the shutdown, President Trump’s address to the nation, and the compromise they’d be willing to make to get the government operational again.

Here’s what they had to say.

Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee

File photo of Sen. Mike Lee. (Photo: Hans Koepsell / KSL File Photo)

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, during his interview with Dave & Dujanovic, made one thing completely clear: he is firmly behind the president.

“President Trump is right,” Lee says. He believes that there is a crisis on the southern border, that more resources need to be deployed to fix it, and that one part of the solution should be a border wall.

“Walls work,” Lee says. He points to the 650 miles of border fences that have already been built along the American-Mexican border, constructed under the orders of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama alike. The idea of a physical barrier wouldn’t have stayed alive for so long, Lee argues, if it didn’t work.

He blames the shutdown on the Democrats for waiting “until the last possible minute” to bring forward spending legislation. Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer, he says, are “making this a much bigger issue than it needs to be and keeping the government shut down as a result.”

Many ideas for a compromise have been floated, Lee says. One idea, he says, is to offer the Democrats increased protections for people with temporary protected status in exchange for the funding for the border wall.

Lee doesn’t believe, however, that the shutdown will end until the Democrats agree to provide some kind of funding the wall. The president, he says, “seems very dug-in on this.”

Rep. Rob Bishop

Rep. Rob Bishop

File photo of Rep. Rob Bishop. (Photo: Ravell Call / KSL)

“This shutdown is extremely frustrating because it did not need to happen,” Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, says.

He blames the shutdown on the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule, which allows filibusters to be started by any senator and requires the votes of 60 out of 100 senators to end them.

“Any senator can put a hold on a bill and any senator can say: ‘I am declaring a filibuster’, so it’s going to take 60 votes,” Bishop says. “There are not 60 votes to declare what time of day it is.”

The border wall, Bishop believes, would have been funded before the Democrats gained the majority of the House if it weren’t for the rule. Republicans, however, only controlled 52 seats in the Senate, allowing the Democrats to block any attempts at passing funding it even when the Republicans had the majority of the seats.

Government shutdowns, Rep. Bishop says, will happen again and again until the filibuster rule is rewritten.

“That is the problem,” Bishop says, “and it needs to be addressed.”

Rep. Chris Stewart

Rep. Chris Stewart

File photo of Rep. Chris Stewart. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, believes border security has bipartisan support. The only reason the Democrats have refused to give President Trump funding for the border wall, he says, is because they see him as “such a disagreeable president.”

Democrats, Stewart argues, have voted for border security in the past. He believes the president has become so connected with the idea of a border wall, however, that Democrats “just don’t want to give him any kind of a win on this.”

The president has already offered a compromise, Stewart believes. He says that President Trump has already lowered his previous request for $25 billion for the border wall, but that the Democrats have not offered any kind of compromise whatsoever.

The best chance for a compromise, Stewart suggests, is to offer Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation to Democrats in exchange for border security funding.

“There’s bipartisan support for this,” Stewart says. “We know the Democrats want to do that. The president has offered that. Couldn’t we find some way to compromise that would give us a few billion dollars for border security and take care of DACA at the same time?”

In the meantime, Stewart says he agrees with Rep. Rob Bishop that these government shutdowns won’t go away until filibuster rules are fixed.

“You can plan on it. Every winter we’re going to have a shutdown over something or the other,” Stewart says. “It’s because of this 60-vote threshold.”

Rep. John Curtis

Rep. John Curtis

File photo of Rep. John Curtis. (Photo: Rick Bowmer / AP)

Before coming on the show, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, posted on Twitter that Republicans and Democrats need to “come together and find an end to this government shutdown in a way that provides the resources needed at the border.”

For Curtis, however, those resources included more than just a border wall. He called for “more immigration judges, law enforcement personnel, technology and money to address the humanitarian needs.”

“This is what Utahns want,” Curtis tells Dave & Dujanovic. “They want us to handle things at the border professional, with dignity, and in a way that’s in keeping with the Utahn compact.”

He says that he would “love” to have conversations with Democrats about DACA, temporary workers, and other immigrant rights, but that, in the past, they have refused to negotiate.

“The reality is that we were unsuccessful in getting those things pushed forward, and not a single Democrat joined us when we voted for those things,” Stewart says. “Not one. And this is one of the reasons we are in this position, with our backs up against the wall.”

President Trump has already made concessions, Curtis believes, but the Democrats have been unwilling to even have a discussion.

“The President said last night that this could be solved in 45 minutes, and he’s right,” Stewart says. “We need them to come to the table and have a reasonable discussion about what it’s going to take to open the government.”

Rep. Ben McAdams

Rep. Ben McAdams

File photo of Rep. Ben McAdams. (Photo: Scott G. Winterton / KSL, File)

Unfortunately, Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, was unable to find a suitable time to appear on the show. As Utah’s newest congressional representative, his colleague Rep. Stewart theorizes he’s busy getting his “feet under him” on Capitol Hill.

McAdams did, however, issue the following statement on the shutdown:

Utahns expect us to work together, find common ground and move forward with solutions. We have important issues to address that will be debated over the coming months but we should have those debates after we’ve done our basic job of resuming government operations.

His statement continues:

Both parties and President Trump need to work together to end the partial government shutdown. This impasse is unproductive, unnecessary and harms our ability to resolve serious issues such as reforming our broken immigration system and lowering health care costs.

Sen. Mitt Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney

File photo of Sen. Mitt Romney. (Photo: Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was unable to appear on the show as he was scheduled to meet with the President and Republican Senators today. He did, however, provide us with this statement:

I’m concerned about the financial challenges that many Utah families and businesses are facing as federal workers start to miss paychecks. I’m hopeful this will be resolved soon in a way that protects border security and reopens the government, and that’s what I’m focused on with my colleagues.

Romney has promised that, if an opening in his schedule appears, he will appear on KSL Newsradio to talk about the shutdown soon.

Stay tuned to the KSL Newsradio Facebook page and KSL’s on-air and live web streams for any updates.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Utah’s congressional representatives talk to KSL’s Dave & Dujanovic about the government shutdown