By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The dust having settled from President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, the Homeland Security Conference Committee is back at work and trying to come up with a border funding deal to avert another partial government shutdown.
As Senate Appropriations Chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R- Alabama, is at the center of those negotiations, and he sat down with Alabama Daily News on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments.
President Trump is demanding $5.7 billion in funding for increased border security, including a wall along unsecured parts of the southern border. But Democrats have resisted any funding for the wall, so whether Trump and Republicans will be successful remains very much in doubt.
“That’s the central question: will we be successful. We don’t know,” Shelby said.
“We’ve been working on it and talking about it all day.”
Shelby said he invited representatives from Customs and Border Protections – including U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost – to a closed-door meeting of the conferees to discuss what is actually needed to secure the border. Provost and her subordinates are career public servants as opposed to political appointees.
“Not politicians, like me or like the president or like the speaker, but professionals,” Shelby said. “Because we need to know what they need – not what the president says, what I say, what the speaker says.”
Shelby said the feedback to the Conference Committee was clear that the needs are multifaceted.
“They told us, basically, look, we need barriers, we need technology, we need people, we need it all, a comprehensive thing,” Shelby said.
“Technology without barriers is folly. Barriers without technology is folly. And all of it without good people will never work. So, we need all three, a comprehensive approach.”
Shelby said he still hopes to solve the border security problem through the appropriations process, but added that Trump taking executive action is still a possibility.
“We hope this meeting today created a dynamic with the conferees,” he said. “We’ll have to see if it does. Time is ticking away.
“I’d rather us forge a legislative solution. That’s what we’re supposed to do. If we can’t do it, the president might have to do something else.”