CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)

Interview

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CABRERA: We will see because I'm going to talk to a Democrat right now. Ryan Nobles, thank you. I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls this offer a nonstarter. Does she speak for you?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, she does. You can't negotiate by keeping the government hostage. We need to reopen the government, and then we can sit down and try and reach an agreement. There's been no sitdown yet. This is just negotiations by T.V. spotlights.

CABRERA: Now, it does sound like Trump is conceding on the definition of his border wall. He's asking for $5.7 billion for physical barriers. He says, this wall will not be a wall from sea to sea. He also wants improved drug protection technology at the border. He wants to invest more money in more people who can help secure the border and more people who can also help process immigration cases.

In the past, your party has supported this type of thing and has supported some fencing in areas where it might make sense. Why is this offer such a nonstarter?

LOFGREN: Well, that's right. But we're not going to negotiate with the government shutdown. We need to open the government, and then we'll sit down and talk.

The idea, frankly, that he would offer a temporary protection from deportation of the DREAMERS, they already have that temporary protection from the courts. So, you know, that's really not much.

[17:05:00] He created the chaos, with the Temporary Protected Status by ignoring his professionals in the State Department who said it isn't safe in Honduras or Sudan. He just ignored that. And so, to say that he's going to extract ransom to solve the chaos, that he himself created, is pretty rich.

But, you know, the point is, we need to reopen the government, sit down -

CABRERA: Right.

LOFGREN: -- and we'll come up with solutions that work for the country.

CABRERA: OK. But if he reopens the government and agrees to do that first. Did what you hear sound like something you could agree to?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't know what he means. I've seen a piece of paper that, supposedly, was from the administration. There so-called humanitarian aid is actually prisons for families. If that's what the proposal is, I'm not for it.

So, we need to have a discussion about what's being proposed and what we can agree on. If we work in good faith, I'm sure we can come up with solutions for the American people. We have supported rebuilding the ports of entry, because the technology just isn't there. There may be some areas, along the border, where additional fencing is warranted. We could take a look at that. We have supported additional immigration judges.

So, there's plenty of room to talk, but we can't do that with a government shutdown.

CABRERA: You know, in 2013, let me read something you said about the government shutdown then, when it was, sort of, a reverse scenario. You wrote, what Republicans are doing now is not legitimate governing nor is it responsible. This brinksmanship is reckless and will hurt working families, seniors, small businesses, veterans and our economy. Again, that was back when we had a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled House. So, now we're seeing the reverse.

How is what Democrats doing different than what you were railing against in 2013? LOFGREN: The point is, you can't hold the government hostage for --

to get your way on a policy dispute. I think there's broad consensus in the country. Different people have tried it at different times. I remember I was a freshman when Newt Gingrich tried it. And finally had to say, this is not the way to proceed.

We can have a discussion about solving our policy differences, but not with the government hostage. He needs to open the government. He can do it. We've passed the funding bills that the Senate has already passed. Let's get off the dime, do that, and get together to reach conclusions that are in the best interests of the American people.

CABRERA: I think Americans would say, yes, please do that. Reopen the government. Let's get this moving. We have Coast Guard pilots cancelling flights because of stress. There are concerns over the effectiveness of the TSA with all the sickouts and the ongoing financial burden those employees are facing.

Is this stand-off now putting national security at risk? And at what point do Democrats say it's just not worth it?

LOFGREN: The president has the responsibility for this. He said that himself. The idea that he's doing this to make the country safe is ridiculous. He is asking border patrol agents to work without pay. They've furloughed the people in the Department of Homeland Security whose mission is to keep us safe. The Coast Guard that interdicts the drug runners is working without pay. The air traffic controllers are working without pay.

This is unacceptable. He needs to open the government. We need to get back to the table or, actually, just begin at the table and reach a conclusion on the disagreement on border security.

We are for border security. We have a lot of good ideas that we are willing to put on the table, some of which may overlap with the president's ideas. But you can't do it holding the government hostage.

CABRERA: So, let me ask you about the Democrats ideas, because I understand House Democrats are getting ready to pass spending bills this week with border security proposals. What more can you tell us about that?

LOFGREN: Well, I'll - I - we'll have them out next week. But one of the proposals is something that we have been urging for a long time. And, frankly, President Obama also didn't do what we wished which is to increase the number of immigration judges dramatically.

We need to have a dramatic infrastructure upgrades at the ports of entry. Almost all the drugs that are coming over the land borders come through the ports of entry. They come on great big trucks. And we don't have the latest technology to detect those drugs or, for that matter, other material that could do us harm.

We also believe that the Coast Guard needs to be better funded. As I've been down to the border and down in South America, where they can identify the boats that have drugs on them. You can see it on the map real time.

[17:10:04] And, yet, they only have enough Coast Guard to interdict 20 percent of what they've identified as the drug importing boats. It's ridiculous. We should upgrade that and make sure that that no longer is the case. You don't get there by not paying the Coast Guard.

So, we're a long way from where we should be. And we're not going to get to where we need to be for our country with the president coming up with deals that -- only his deals that he's never discussed with anyone in the Democratic Party.

CABRERA: Well, some of what you just said was part of what he said as well. You guys sounded similar. At least portions of his speech sounded similar to what I just heard from you.

Congressman Zoe Laughlin, I'd like to continue the conversation with you, as we continue to follow where this conversation goes. Thank you for being here and offering -

LOFGREN: Any time.

CABRERA: -- your thoughts in responding to the president's remarks today.

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