Ag Policy Blog

GOP Senator Points to Prior Border-Wall Votes by Democrats

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Farmworkers protest in 2013 during a rally calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The bill that passed the Senate had funding for 700 miles of a border barrier, but the bill never came up for a vote in the House. (DTN file photo)

Leading into President Donald Trump's speech Tuesday night, Sen. Charles Grassley made the argument that most Democrats had supported similar border-wall funding under former President George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

I asked Grassley onTuesday morning if he is in lockstep with President Donald Trump on the need to fund a wall.

"Well, I think it's pretty clear when you listen to the Border Patrol how fences and walls are really needed for them to do their work and to enforce the law of United States. It's pretty clear," Grassley said. "Then common sense tells me than one person wants $6 billion and other people have already said an agreed to and voted for $1.6 billion, that there's a compromise there somewhere around $3 billion, and it's quite obvious the people who say the wall is immoral, you've heard Pelosi say that, that it wasn't immoral when she and Congress voted for it in 2006-07, whenever that passes and there were 650 miles of it."

In 2006, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, which passed the Senate with a vote of 80-19. Among Democrats voting for it were former President Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY.…

In the House, though, 64 Democrats backed the bill, but 131 Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer, the current speaker and majority leader.…

Pelosi has called the wall "immoral" but Grassley inaccurately claimed she supported a wall. "Then how all of a sudden can that be immoral without saying, 'I made a great big mistake back there in 2006. I shouldn't have voted for that wall, but I don't hear that."

Grassley's staff also responded that S. 744, the 2013 immigration bill, would have created 700 miles of wall funding. That bill was supported by 68 senators, including every Democrat. But 32 Republicans opposed the bill, considered a comprehensive immigration bill, including Grassley. That bill never came up for a vote in the House.

Grassley said Democrats in the past had backed spending $25 billion on border security in S. 744. "A lot of Democrats voted for $25 billion, so what's wrong with $6 billion now or what's wrong with $3 billion now, or they seem like they even are backing off $1.6 billion," he said.

Grassley added, "The people who are negotiating there now have voted for it, so I'm preaching a little bit for it here."

Grassley added that negotiations should include some resolution Democrats want to the young immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by the Obama Administration.

"We all support what Democrats support --- doing something for the DACA kids/ Well let's do something for the DACA kids as part of the compromise," Grassley said.

Pointing to past votes, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue later reiterated a similar theme late Tuesday in a press conference over SNAP funding. Perdue called on Congress to agree on appropriations and get a bill to President Donald Trump that he will sign. "The president has been quite clear about what he expects to see in an appropriations package that will end this government shutdown. Border security and a effective physical barrier along our southern border are commitments he has made to the American people and he has been steadfast in those promises." Perdue added, "Many members of Congress who are now opposing such funding have supported it in the past when someone else was president. And I would hope and believe they should support it again."

Bites and bits

Looking at other areas of the federal government, Grassley also said it is too early to know whether the shutdown will affect the rulemaking for year-round E-15 at EPA, but Grassley noted the agency will need a 60-day comment period for the rule, so the sooner the agency can work on it, the better.

"We have to make sure the government shutdown doesn't slow that up because there is a 60-day time period for comments," Grassley said. "And I've had EPA give me a commitment that this rule is a priority and EPA plans on getting it done by the June 1 deadline."

Grassley will meet with EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom this week and his main message will be to convey that agriculture must be part of any U.S.-EU trade deal if it has any expectation of passing Congress.

To champion biotechnology, Grassley said he will pull two bags of corn and soybeans out of his office closet and explain to Malmstrom how Iowa farmers test the moisture content of corn and soybeans. Then Grassley will chew on the corn and soybeans, and tell Malmstrom he's been doing that for 25 years with biotech seeds.

"I'm kind of a laboratory for the European community to know these are a safe product that they should be allowing them into their country," Grassley said.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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