Representative Hakeem Jeffries mocked President Donald Trump on Wednesday, pointing out that the author of The Art of the Deal has “failed” to negotiate an agreement with lawmakers to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, while he also repeatedly called the ongoing government shutdown “reckless.”
Appearing on CNN’s New Day television program, the congressman from New York accused Trump of holding American taxpayers “hostage” with his government shutdown, describing the billions of dollars Trump has requested to construct a border wall a “ransom note.”
“What we’re unwilling to do is to pay a $5 billion ransom note for a medieval border wall that Trump wants to put forward that he initially said…that Mexico would pay for,” Jeffries, who will become the chairman of the House Democratic caucus this week, said. “Mexico has not paid for it. The great deal maker has failed,” he pointed out.
Attacking the shutdown instituted by the president, the congressman said the move was “totally unreasonable,” saying that the White House was holding the “the American taxpayer hostage and want[s] to extract through a ransom note billions of dollars in additional funding.” However, he explained that Democrats, who will control the House of Representatives after new lawmakers are sworn in on Thursday, are willing to “provide additional funding [for border security], but there is no justification for the amount that is being requested.”
Jeffries said that experts have repeatedly explained that the president’s border wall proposal would be ineffective, whereas “enhance technology” such as cell phone towers, satellites, drones, increased communication capabilities and improved fencing would be a better solution than a concrete wall. He said Democrats plan to put a bill on the floor Thursday that would provide $1.3 billion for these measures.
Trump declined to sign a bipartisan budget before Christmas that would have kept the government running because it did not provide funding for his long-touted border wall. Despite Republican control of the House and Senate since he took office, the proposal has thus far failed to gain enough support to move forward. With Republicans officially losing control of the House this week, the president will be forced to deal with Democratic leaders in Congress to make a budget and end the shutdown.
The president has invited congressional leaders to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a way forward, Politico reported, as hundreds of thousands of federal government employees either continue working without pay or have been temporarily laid off due to the shutdown. Jeffries said on CNN that he hoped the meeting would be the start of a “mature conversation” about immigration.
However, Trump posted to Twitter on Thursday morning to again insist Mexico was already going to pay for the wall through the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) that replaced NAFTA last year. Experts have explained previously that the president’s assessment of the trade deal is inaccurate, as government revenues are not expected to increase enough to fund the proposed multi-billion dollar project. The argument is also inaccurate in that money coming into the U.S through the deal would go to U.S. citizens, not directly to the Treasury.