Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue is leaving little room between himself and President Donald Trump as congressional negotiators ramp up a new round of border security talks.
In an interview Monday, Perdue said the president should continue to insist that Democrats agree to new money for a barrier on the southern border. And he repeatedly called the commander-in-chief a “statesman” for agreeing to temporarily reopen the government as 17 House and Senate lawmakers hash out a final funding deal.
“I don’t think the president caved at all” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Perdue said. “What he did was he acted like a statesman. He said, ‘look, we’ve come to an impasse. Let’s find an off-ramp and let’s move forward.’”
Perdue was referring to the three-week stopgap Trump signed Friday that reopened portions of the government that had been shuttered for a record-breaking 35 days. Many media outlets described the short-term deal as a win for Pelosi, who had insisted that Trump reopen federal agencies before negotiations resumed on wall money.
Perdue – who stayed in Washington over the weekend to dine privately with Trump and huddle with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and GOP senators at Camp David, according to a person familiar with the meetings – said he hoped negotiators could find a “meaningful middle position” on wall funding that would set aside at least a down payment for a barrier.
“I’ve told him all along: it’s not the (dollar amount) that’s important. It’s the momentum,” said Perdue, recounting his advice to Trump. “Let’s keep going on what past presidents have started here in terms of securing the crisis points on the border.”
Perdue said Pelosi and other Democrats were “hypocritical” for backing the border security proposals of past Democratic presidents but rejecting Trump’s, and argued they were more interested in messaging for the 2020 elections than forging a compromise.
“This president has bent over backwards to give an opportunity and a pathway to a reasonable middle ground solution,” he said.
Democrats have offered to give Trump money for repairing fencing, hiring more border agents and immigration judges and purchasing new security technology, but insist a border wall goes against American values. They’ve also criticized the Trump administration for constantly moving the goalposts as negotiations have unfolded.
Perdue, who has pushed for an overhaul of the country’s legal immigration laws, predicted that the timetable of the current negotiations was too short to produce a broader immigration deal.
He continued to defend Trump’s ability to declare a national emergency to secure wall money should negotiators fail to strike a final agreement. The proposition has united many Georgia Republicans but has given other GOP senators, including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, pause about the political precedent it would create.
The emergency designation could put Georgia Republicans, including Perdue, in a political bind. It would allow Trump to divert money from politically popular Army Corps of Engineers and military construction projects, including Georgia’s top economic development project at the Savannah port.
Perdue didn’t deny that Trump could tap funding previously set aside for Georgia projects, but he said Monday there were “plenty of places to find this money without necessarily taking away from high economic return projects like the Savannah port.”
Perdue has inextricably tied himself to the president as he runs for a second term in the U.S. Senate. A bevy of Democrats, including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, have expressed interest in challenging him – and indicated they won’t hesitate to criticize Perdue for those White House ties.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.