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Have Democrats Pushed Hard Enough To End The Shutdown?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Two bills designed to bring an end to the partial government shutdown. Both brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Both failed. Although, a window for negotiation may have opened as a result. Congresswoman Nita Lowey is a Democrat from New York. She is also the chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, which gives her a unique insight into what is happening on Capitol Hill with these negotiations. And she joins me now. Congresswoman, thanks for being here.

NITA LOWEY: Good morning. It's a pleasure.

MARTIN: You have said, given your role as an appropriator, you are always compromising. That is the work. So what is the compromise you think can pass right now?

LOWEY: Look. First of all, as you said, Democrats support strong, smart, effective border security. And as an appropriator, I'm used to working across the aisle to get things done. Once we end the shutdown - and that's exactly what we must do and should do. The Trump shutdown, as we know, is now in its 35th day. And we all know the harm that it's inflicting on families, businesses, communities across the country. And the solution should be simple. It's very clear to me. Reopen the government, pay our federal employees and then we have to negotiate strong, smart and effective border security.

MARTIN: But that's been - forgive me for interrupting. That has been the Democrats' position for weeks on end now. And President Trump hasn't moved, and federal workers are missing a second paycheck today. So at what point do you need to change tacks? If holding out for the president to reopen government and only then negotiate over the border - that's clearly not working right now.

LOWEY: Well, we've been consistent. And that's exactly our position. That's exactly the position of Speaker Pelosi. It's exactly my position as an appropriator. We have to open the government, and we have to make sure we sit at a table and negotiate. In fact, last night, when a group of us Democrats went over to the Senate side, I was chatting a little bit with Senator Shelby, who is my counterpart on the Senate appropriations committee. We know we can get a deal. We can work together. We've done that over and over again. That's the way the democratic process works. But the president has to understand unless he opens the government, nothing is going to happen.

MARTIN: Well, he - the White House has suggested that he would consider a three-week temporary stopgap spending measure to reopen government. And in exchange, he'd like a downpayment on the wall. Why not do that?

LOWEY: Well, first of all, that's how we began this whole negotiation. For weeks, we were bringing bills to the floor. And we even said, we'd take a 30-day reprieve after he signed the other bills to discuss homeland security. So he cannot say to us unless you do this, I'm going to shut down the government. If the president is really ready to talk, we can talk, but you just have to open the government.

MARTIN: What - how is this going to move, though? I mean, Democrats, as you say, have been consistent, but that means that they haven't given an inch.

LOWEY: Well, how about the president? To close the government for 35 days - you've had on your program, Rachel, the harm that it's inflicting on families, businesses, communities across the country. The solution is very simple.

MARTIN: And you think Republicans and the president are going to be the only ones to bear the political brunt of that?

LOWEY: I don't think it's ever a good thing to have the government shut down, to have federal employees not getting paid, to have people who can't go to the store and buy food for their families. We have to open the government and then negotiate.

MARTIN: Will Democrats propose a new plan today?

LOWEY: Pardon?

MARTIN: Will Democrats propose a new plan today?

LOWEY: The plan is very simple - open the government, let's negotiate and let's talk. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who's my chair of the committee that really puts together - excuse me - all the border security plans, has worked all weekend. We have proposals. We have to open the government.

MARTIN: Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House appropriations committee. Thank you, ma'am.

LOWEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.