RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The country's top Democrats go to the White House today to meet with President Trump and try to hash out a plan to avoid a partial government shutdown. The obstacle - quite literally a wall, specifically the president's request for $5 billion as a down payment on a border wall. President Trump has been promising his supporters that he would build that wall since he announced his run for the White House in 2015. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have suggested offering $1.3 billion to Trump for border security. This is way less than the president wants, clearly, but it is way too much in the view of our next guest. Democratic Congressman Lou Correa joins us now from his office on Capitol Hill.
Thanks so much for being with us.
LOU CORREA: Hello, Rachel. Good to be with you.
MARTIN: What's your central concern about today's meeting and this proposed border security money?
CORREA: Well, my concern is the concern that my constituents have. My constituents want us to come to Washington to do our job, keep government open, especially in this time that we have so much economic uncertainty around the world - economic war with the Chinese, Brexit, the stock market doing what it's doing - a lot of uncertainty. I think what we need to do is do our job, keep government open and move ahead. Now, you talk about the border wall - and it's interesting because the Republicans don't want a border wall; Democrats don't want a border wall. Our border officers don't want a border wall. It's a president that wants a wall. It's time for the president to figure out what the people of this country want, which is economic certainty and to keep government open.
MARTIN: Well, with all due respect, there are plenty of Republicans who do want a border wall and have spoken out vociferously in support of the president. What do you think is the way forward here? I mean, your colleagues on the Senate side, Chuck Schumer - and Nancy Pelosi - have offered as this opening negotiating salvo $1.3 billion. Would that work for you as a compromise?
CORREA: Look. Rachel, the issue right now at the border is a refugee situation that's been going down for 40 years. Only now are we looking at it more seriously. We need to address the issue of Central American refugees with a Marshall Plan, something that stabilizes Central America; 1.3 billion, it just shows that Nancy and Chuck Schumer are both interested in keeping government open. It's...
MARTIN: But you just said that was something...
CORREA: ...Up to the president now...
MARTIN: ...You were concerned with, too.
CORREA: What's that?
MARTIN: Keeping government open.
CORREA: Absolutely, I'm very concerned about keeping government open. I'd be interested in looking at it. I'd be interested in looking at a reasonable offer. But again, the president has to stop trying to commit to certain promises - keep his promises - when they don't make sense.
MARTIN: What I hear you saying is you agree that the U.S. should increase some money, but you want to have it spent on something you call a Marshall Plan for Central America.
CORREA: Well, that's a bigger plan. But Rachel, I've been to the border. I've talked to border agents. I've asked them, what is it that we need to do? What is it that we need to spend on? These very precious taxpayer dollars, where is it best to invest - on a border wall, more drug-sniffing dogs, more border agents - where should the money go? And they've all told me, give us more agents; give us more resources, more technology. None of them say we need a wall.
MARTIN: Although that's what Pelosi and Schumer are suggesting, that this money would be used more broadly for border security, the exact same things you're talking about - more manpower at the border, better technology.
CORREA: That's correct. I think everybody wants to do the right thing. I think it's a president that's very interested in keeping his promise of a wall that doesn't really work.
MARTIN: So just to be clear, you agree with Pelosi and Schumer, that 1.3 is an OK offering in this negotiation.
CORREA: Resources to enhance border security - not a wall - but resources that are beyond a wall, I think, is a good start.
MARTIN: President Trump has suggested that if Democrats don't bump up that number, that they'd be responsible for the shutdown.
CORREA: But the Republicans control Congress. His party controls government at the federal level. Why is it all of a sudden a Democratic issue? You have Nancy and Schumer stepping up and saying, here's a solution. Why isn't the president interested in working out a real solution for America?
MARTIN: Although Democrats will control the House in January. When it comes to that, would you be willing...
CORREA: That's correct.
MARTIN: ...To take the heat...
CORREA: But right now...
MARTIN: ...For that shutdown?
CORREA: But right now - no, nobody wants a shutdown. My constituents want jobs. They want economic stability. Nobody wants a shutdown. The president has two weeks, through the end of the year, to figure this out. His party, Republicans, are still in control. They can do this. The problem is Republicans also don't want a border wall. Nobody wants a wall other than the president.
MARTIN: Who ran and won on that very platform, along with a lot of support.
California Democratic Representative Lou Correa, thank you so much for your time.
CORREA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.