Shelby: Bipartisan committee must listen to border security experts

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said Sunday that the bipartisan conference committee tasked with creating a deal on border security and President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall will hear from Customs and Border Patrol experts this week to gain insight into what types of measures they are in need of along the Southern border.

“As a matter of fact, later this week, coming up, we’ve asked the professionals — the people who do the work, that know something about the border, know what they need. Do they need a wall? They need a fence? They need more technology? Do they need it all?” Shelby, who sits on the 17-person panel, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“We’re going to have them up before the appropriation conference committee, and we’re going to find out what they want. I think it’s not what I need or what the speaker needs or even the President needs,” Shelby, who represents Alabama, said. “It’s what we need to secure our borders. And if we get this information from the experts, it could move us off the dime.”

Asked by Tapper what would happen if the experts do not back Trump’s border wall, Shelby replied: “Well, I think it’s what you call it. The President calls it a wall. Sometimes, we call it a fence, sometimes a barrier.”

“But the President, I think, has already spoken out and said he’s not talking about a concrete wall, 1,500 miles and so forth. I think he’s been talking about steel barriers and slats and stuff like that,” Shelby continued, adding that it’s important to defer to the experts because “we do have problems with our borders.”

“It’s a question, how do we get off the politics and to the substance? If we can do that, we will get the job done. That’s what I’m working to do to go to yes,” Shelby said.

The committee, which was convened following the reopening of the federal government late last month, has until February 15 to find a proposal that could clear both chambers of Congress and get Trump’s signature.

On Friday, Trump kept open the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure funding to construct a border wall, telling reporters that he thinks “there’s a good chance that we’ll have to do that.”