Sen. Jeff Merkley: 'We're absolutely willing to fund border security,' but not a wall

Sen. Merkley, D-Ore., a possible 2020 presidential candidate, is interviewed on "This Week" about the government shutdown and the fight over border wall funding.
6:44 | 12/23/18

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Transcript for Sen. Jeff Merkley: 'We're absolutely willing to fund border security,' but not a wall
Joining me now is Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the foreign relations committee. He's also weighing a presidential run in 2020. Senator Merkley, thank you for joining us. You're welcome. Good to be with you. You just heard soon to be acting chief of staff Mulvaney saying the president is not backing down. He's not going to agree to anything that doesn't include funding for his border wall. How do we get out of this impasse? I think the president is determined to carry this forward at least until the democratic congress comes in. It's not about border security. He's sitting on over $1 billion 94% of what we recent him last year for border security, that he hasn't bothered to spend. If you're not going to spend that money on an issue, you don't care about it that much. It's politics, not policy. Look at this question of the wall. This is something the president campaigned on. It's something the house has voted to approve funding for. It's something that half the senate roughly has said they're willing to support. Why are the Democrats so insistent, chuck Schumer, insisting that nothing for the border wall? Why not give in a little bit? We're absolutely willing to fund border security. The American people want us to spend money in a smart way. $5 billion is a lot of money. That's 650,000 children attending head start. It's 2 million meals a day for a year for seniors and to spend it on a 4th century strategy rather than something that improves border security is something we're not going to do. Let me be clear. The Democrats are not going to agree to any funding to build a new border wall, none? That's right, none. Border security all the way. Border security all the way. In fact, the president has a lot of money we gave him last year for border security and he's not using it. What about this idea of a compromise where the president gets some money for his wall in exchange for agreeing to provide some kind of legal status for the dreamers? You know, we went through the broader negotiation last year. The president said bring me a bipartisan plan. I'm ready to move on the dreamers. We sent up two senators from each party that went and briefed the president. He went within two days from being I will take the heat, I will back this plan, to completely backing down as soon as he was attacked by Breitbart. We have a president who has no interest in the broader negotiation. We have a bipartisan plan on the table. We have a 2013 plan that would address both of these issues. We're ready for a broader discussion. The president hasn't been there. The 2013 plan which you supported included money for some 700 miles of border fence. Now you just told me -- Border fence, Borr security. A fence, a wall -- There's a difference between a fence and wall. There is? 30-foot concrete wall, 30-foot steel spikes, that's not the smart way. That's what all the experts on the border tell us. I went to the border a couple times. When you talk with the border guards, they fill you in on what's happening and say the president's vision and understanding of the law, he just doesn't get it. He doesn't get the drugs are coming through tunnels and they need high security censors and personnel. All that we support. The things that are effective we support. Broader negotiations, let's have them. You heard Mick Mulvaney say the fundamentals of the economy is strong. Do you agree? I had to laugh when I heard him say that. The economy has delivered just as planned. When they were putting together the $2 trillion giveaway to the wealthy from the tax bill in 2017, they said this is going to increase wages for working Americans. That didn't happen. They said it's going to reduce the deficit. That didn't happen. Mick Mulvaney is saying today we need to cut medicare and social security. That was the big plan. Give away the national treasury to the wealthiest among us and cut the benefits for ordinary working people. You're not going to find support for that strategy rip off ordinary people to give extra money to the rich. The revenues are up slightly since the tax cut. It's spending that's gone up so much driving the deficit. The other big story, the withdrawal from Syria and the resignation of Jim Mattis. You've been critical of American military involvement in the Middle East. Do you support this decision by the president to withdraw U.S. Troops? In Syria we have a complex set of folks on the ground, a big alliance. The fact is that this was done without close consultation. I think he said it all when he said he didn't have any idea who Mcgurk is, the person coordinating all the work in Syria. Who's the first person you bring in to talk about an exit plan, when it's the right moment, when the objective is achieved? How do you avoid a vacuum? How do you honor the allies that are there, Turkey and the folks from kurds? It's a whole set of pieces he didn't think about and talk about and work out. It's very precipitous and leaves our allies and partners in the field out in the cold. There is a moment you have to withdraw, but you have to do it in a coordinated smart way. Before you go, you were just in Iowa this week. You've said you're considering a run for president. I know you haven't made that decision yet. Let me ask you do you have any doubt you're prepared to be president? Well, that I have no doubt about. There are three things keeping me up at night. One is the corruption of the we the people constitution through gerrymandering and voter suppression, the second is the climate destroying our environment, the third is a complete negligent for the foundations for working families. If don't take on very powerful forces, we won't address these big three threats. I can tell you that families are really suffering in my blue collar communities and communities across the country. We're going to have to make a difference and change that. Senator Merkley, thank you for joining us this morning. Thank you very much, Jon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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