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Border Wall Impasse Presents McAdams, Utah’s Divided Delegation, With First Obstacle Of 2019

Border fence
Border fencing at Naco, Arizona

Utah’s federal delegation will return to Washington next week to what looks like a prolonged stalemate with President Trump over border wall funding.

Walking into that is Ben McAdams, who will be sworn in on Jan. 3 as Utah’s newest member of Congress and the only Democrat.

His first vote may follow soon after as the new Democratic majority in the House looks to end a government shutdown that has shuttered nine federal departments and put close to 400,000 federal workers on unpaid leave.

McAdams would not say whether he would support more or less funding for a wall as negotiations between the White House and Congress are still underway.

“Border security is important — I don’t know that a wall is a ‘be-all-and-end-all’ of border security,” he said. “I think this needs to be part of a broader conversation on immigration reform.”

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has offered to maintain current funding levels for border fencing at $1.3 billion, far lower than the $5.7 billion backed by Trump and House Republicans.

McAdams says he wants both sides to compromise, a refrain he repeated throughout his campaign against Republican Rep. Mia Love in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

“The reality is Congress is broken, Washington is dysfunctional, the president is blowing things up as well,” he said. ”Everybody’s to blame, and the solution has to come from working together and finding consensus.”

McAdams’ vote will likely differ from the rest of Utah’s Republican delegation.

GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, who’s returning for his third term in Congress, says the president ran on a platform of border security and feels the issue is too important to his base and the Republican Party.

“The president has been willing to compromise on this ... he started out with the request with $20 billion, he went to 15, he went to $10 billion — he’s down to $5 billion now,” he said. “For whatever reason, the Democratic Party has said, ‘We’re not going to give you anything for the wall.’ I don’t know where we go from here.”

President Trump tweeted Friday he may shut down the border over the stalemate, a tactic Stewart said he believes is more bluster than bite.

“I think it’s a little bit of him negotiating,” he said. “I don’t think that would be helpful or incentivize the Democratic Party to come to the table.”

Stewart and other members of Utah’s delegation are foregoing their paychecks while the government is closed. But Stewart says he hopes both parties can get back to putting their constituents first.

“We’ve had divided government before, and a lot of people like divided government,” he said. “But this is a particularly intense period in American politics. There’s not question about that.”


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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