Lott lam­basts con­gres­sional lead­ers, pres­i­dent on stale­mate



As the par­tial fed­eral govern­ment shut­down dragged into its third week, a for­mer U.S. Se­nate leader from Mis­sis­sippi slammed fel­low Repub­li­cans Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell for the stale­mate over fund­ing a south­ern bor­der wall.

For­mer Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Trent Lott blamed the shut­down on an on­go­ing lack of lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton, from the pres­i­dency and Con­gress. Lott spoke to Mis­sis­sippi To­day from the glass pan­eled con­fer­ence room in the of­fices of his D.C. lobbying firm hours be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump, in a prime-time Oval Of­fice ad­dress, ac­cused Democrats of caus­ing the shut­down by not giv­ing in to the White House’s de­mand for $5.7 bil­lion for a bor­der wall.

“It’s all bull----,” Lott told Mis­sis­sippi To­day on Tuesday. “We need se­cu­rity. We need to con­trol the bor­der, but now it’s about sym­bol­ism. Democrats are not one dol­lar for a wall. (Repub­li­cans say) ‘We’re be­ing in­vaded, we’ve got to have the wall.’”

“It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”

On Dec. 22, the fed­eral govern­ment par­tially shut down, which af­fected nine fed­eral de­part­ments and dozens of govern­ment agen­cies.

With 800,000 fed­eral govern­ment em­ploy­ees go­ing with­out pay and bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for govern­ment pro­grams in jeop­ardy, Pres­i­dent Trump made his case to a na­tional tele­vi­sion au­di­ence: The U.S. is in the midst of a “hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis,” Trump said, and de­manded Democrats pro­vide fund­ing for a bor­der wall and other se­cu­rity mea­sures.

“The fed­eral govern­ment re­mains shut down for one rea­son and one rea­son only be­cause Democrats will not fund bor­der se­cu­rity,” Trump said from the Oval Of­fice. “My ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing ev­ery­thing in our power to help those im­pacted by the sit­u­a­tion. But the only so­lu­tion is for Democrats to pass a spend­ing bill that de­fends our bor­ders and re­opens the govern­ment.”

Lott said Repub­li­cans should of­fer Democrats a deal to re­form DACA, an Obama-era pro­gram that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has tried to kill. The pro­gram al­lows im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren to re­main in the coun­try. Mean­while, Trump said Democrats should ne­go­ti­ate with the White House on a smaller price tag for bor­der se­cu­rity.

“When you’re one of 100 (sen­a­tors) you don’t get 100 per­cent of what you want,” Lott said. “You have to know peo­ple. You have to test peo­ple. You have to see how much you can get. Rea­gan even said give me 60 per­cent of any­thing, I’ll take it and I’ll come back and try to get more later. So you have to be strong, you have to show courage, you have to lead.”

How­ever, with the ex­cep­tion of U.S. Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, the mem­bers of Mis­sis­sippi’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion re­main in lock­step with Trump.

When asked about Trump’s call for bor­der se­cu­rity fund­ing on Thursday, Thomp­son, Mis­sis­sippi’s lone Demo­crat and chair­man of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, which over­sees fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies, painted the wall as an empty ges­ture.

“Be­sides what the pres­i­dent’s own ter­ri­ble poli­cies have cre­ated, there is sim­ply NO emergency at the bor­der,” Thomp­son said in a state­ment. “A wall is not the so­lu­tion to the crime and tragedy he de­scribes. A wall will not stop the flow of il­le­gal drugs he talks about, which over­whelm­ingly come through le­gal ports of en­try. A wall is in­ef­fec­tive and a waste of tax­payer dol­lars. I see no in­di­ca­tion tonight that the pres­i­dent is will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate in good faith. It is time he re­al­izes the harm caused by his need­less shut­down and works with Democrats to re­open the govern­ment.”

Mis­sis­sippi’s con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, how­ever, each in­sisted the wall is a nec­es­sary strat­egy for deal­ing with un­wanted il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­cans also re­peated Trump’s claims about mi­grants bring­ing il­le­gal nar­cotics over the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der al­though most drugs are seized at le­gal ports of en­try, ac­cord­ing to a Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple are sick and tired of our por­ous bor­ders and the in­abil­ity of Wash­ing­ton to get things done. Bor­der se­cu­rity is na­tional se­cu­rity. It’s our job to pro­tect the Amer­i­can peo­ple first and fore­most, and it seems as though Democrats have for­got­ten that re­spon­si­bil­ity. There is ab­so­lutely a na­tional emergency at our bor­der,” Rep. Steven Palazzo said in an email to Mis­sis­sippi To­day. “The fact is there has been a rush of il­le­gal im­mi­grants and drugs at our bor­der and it has to be fixed by fund­ing the wall first.”

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, in a state­ment to Mis­sis­sippi To­day be­fore Trump’s ad­dress, de­scribed what he called a “na­tional se­cu­rity and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis at our south­ern bor­der that must be ad­dressed.”

“All Amer­i­cans should be con­cerned about a bor­der that is open to hu­man traf­fick­ing and ex­ploita­tion, deadly il­le­gal drugs, crim­i­nals, and ter­ror­ists. It is un­for­tu­nate the Democrats refuse to work with Repub­li­cans on a so­lu­tion,” Wicker said.

Mis­sis­sippi’s two new­est mem­bers of Con­gress, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Michael Guest, said Trump’s wall pro­posal is rem­i­nis­cent of moves pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions used to se­cure the south­ern bor­der.

Lott, how­ever, said that lead­ers seem fo­cused on winning par­ti­san bat­tles and are miss­ing out on ways to shore up the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

“I re­ally worry about where we are now,” Lott said. “But it’s no use re­liv­ing the past or wor­ry­ing about where you are. What you re­ally need to be do­ing is fig­ur­ing out how to get be­yond this and turn things around. And I don’t know how many peo­ple are think­ing about that.”


For­mer Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Trent Lott in Jack­son on Aug. 27, 2018.

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