House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto" on Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to change her tone and start making "credible" compromises to avert another government shutdown over border wall funding.
Pelosi, D-Calif., on Monday invited President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address on Feb. 5, after refusing to allow him to appear in House chambers during the partial government shutdown. On Friday, both chambers of Congress passed a short-term spending bill to reopen the government through Feb. 15 -- but it includes no funding for a border wall.
"Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn't negotiate during the shutdown. OK, now the shutdown is over for the time being," Scalise told Cavuto. "Will she finally start be willing to put a dollar amount on the table, to say how much is she willing to put together to support securing the border?"
Scalise said that experts have called for more than $5 billion in wall funding, and that Democrats are playing politics. Earlier this month, U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost told "Your World" that "we certainly do need a wall," and the president has touted the support for one from the national border patrol union at White House press briefings.
"It's going to take at least 5 and a half billion dollars -- our experts who risk their lives have said that's what it will take to secure our border," Scalise said. "What's Nancy Pelosi willing to put on the table now that we're out of the shutdown?
Asked by Cavuto what specifically he was looking for from Pelosi, Scalise responded: "Well, it's got to be a serious, credible offer. Let's talk serious. What is your offer? If it's not $5.7 billion -- which is what the experts said -- then what is your number, and how do you back it up?"
Pelosi has rejected the White House's attempts at compromise to secure wall funding, including various immigration-related concessions for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and extensions for emergency refugees.
"I don't think that's a tenable position for most Democrats," Scalise said. "We started seeing over the last few weeks more and more Democrats coming to our side -- even Steny Hoyer, the [Democratic] majority leader -- said physical barriers ought to be part of the solution."
Earlier this month, Hoyer, D-Md., told Fox News that border walls "obviously" work in some instances, and rejected Pelosi's suggestion that walls are necessarily immoral.
And House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told ABC News' "This Week" that he "would not rule out a wall in certain instances," although he cautioned that the White House needed a better "plan" than simply using a wall as a "talking point."
Democratic leaders previously have supported building border walls. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats, including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of some 700 miles of fencing at the border. As of 2015, virtually all of that fencing had been completed, according to government figures.
"The president said: 'I don't need a sea-to-shining-sea wall," Scalise said. "But there's about 550 miles of completely unprotected area where we know bad things -- drugs, human trafficking, even murderers come across the border. Let's start focusing on those areas."
He continued: "And if Nancy Pelosi really doesn't want a wall, President Trump has said, 'Hey, I'll be willing to let you put in language that bans cement wall.' But have some form of physical barriers. The steel slat barriers right now are what the experts say work the best. Let the experts figure that out."
The president's best chance to break the ongoing logjam with Pelosi, Scalise said, is the upcoming State of the Union address.
"They're going to see President Trump laying out the case for securing America's border," Scalise said, referring to the large audience expected to watch the president's speech. "What it's going to take. There are bad things that happen every day that most Americans never hear about. So let's actually lay that case out. And then we'll see where everybody is going to be."