Mississippi Republicans, longtime staunch Trump wall supporters, praise government reopening without border funding

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Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in December 2017.

Mississippi’s Republican members of Congress are applauding the temporary reopening of the federal government without funding for a southern border wall that leading Republicans had supported throughout the 35-day partial shutdown.

The deal to end the longest federal shutdown in history, which passed unanimously in both houses of Congress, came Friday morning — just one day after U.S. Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, citing the lack of border-wall funding, voted against a Democratic proposal to reopen the government.

On Thursday, Hyde-Smith and Wicker backed a different bill that had the support of President Donald Trump and included his requested $5.7 billion for border security, including a wall. The Democratic Party-backed bill did not include those border-security funds. Both failed.

At the time, Hyde-Smith characterized Trump’s plan for border-wall funding in Twitter post as “a compromise to get 800k people back to work AND secure the border.”

But the following day when Trump capitulated to Democrats’ requests to reopen the government without guaranteed border funding, Hyde-Smith, a close ally of the president who ran a campaign last year on voting with Trump’s agenda “100-percent,” praised the plan.

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to media after after winning the Senate runoff election against Mike Espy Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

“I respect the President’s decision to reopen closed portions of the federal government and end the hardship the shutdown has caused many people in Mississippi and around the country,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement Friday. “We’ll have three weeks to work together to complete the 2019 appropriations process with funding for stronger border security and other national priorities.  This will require Democrats to negotiate in good faith with President Trump and Republicans for the common good of our citizens.”

Wicker, who likewise made several public statements about the need to toughen the U.S.-Mexico border echoed his Senate counterpart, saying he expects Democrats will soften their stance on border security over the next few weeks.

“A number of Democrats in the House and Senate have stated publicly and privately they would negotiate in good faith if the President would reopen the government. By making this agreement with the President, congressional Democrats will have an opportunity over the next three weeks to make good on their assurances,” Wicker said in a statement Friday.

In the meantime, Hyde-Smith has introduced a bill that would fund the president’s call for border security using funds from tariffs on China.

“This is a reasonable use of tariff monies and gets us past the argument over who is paying for border barriers and other security upgrades,” Hyde-Smith said on Twitter Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Steve Palazzo, also a longtime vocal proponent of the wall and author of a bill that would fund a wall through government bonds, said he was “disappointed that the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have forced the President to delay securing our borders,” referring to the plan to end the shutdown.

“While we are temporarily funding the government, we must not lose focus on the demand for increased border security. While I am glad to see our federal workers and contractors return to work, this shutdown emphasizes the immediate need to take action and regain operational control of the southern border,” Palazzo said in a statement.

Previously, Palazzo stated that any compromise on reopening the government “has to include securing the border.”

“What it boils down to is border security, national security. As members of Congress, our number one constitutional responsibility is the common defense of this nation. Securing our border is a part of that constitutional commitment that we all have sworn an oath to, both Democrats and Republicans, and we need to take that oath seriously,” Palazzo said in an Instagram post the day before Congress voted to end the shutdown.

Republican U.S. Reps. Trent Kelly and Michael Guest did not release statements about the shutdown ending and their offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bill Clark, CQ Roll Call/Associated Press

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., leaves the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

Mississippi’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said Democrats were unlikely to come around to supporting Trump’s wall, even with three weeks to negotiate.

“To be clear, next month there will be no excuse for the President to go down this road again. Democrats remain committed to effective border security but will only allow taxpayer money be spent on border security measures that will actually make a difference,” Thompson said.