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GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger On Why He Broke With His Party To Support Ending The Shutdown


President Trump spent the afternoon at the border in McAllen, Texas, trying to illustrate the need for a border wall.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we don't have a barrier - a very substantial barrier of some kind, you're never going to be able to solve this problem.

CORNISH: Here in Washington, hundreds of federal workers marched on the Washington Mall to protest the ongoing partial government shutdown. Key parts of the federal government have now been closed for 20 days.


Over the past couple of days in a series of votes, Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger has joined Democrats voting to reopen parts of the government. And Congressman Kinzinger joins us now. Welcome.

ADAM KINZINGER: Hey, thanks. Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: You've said that you support building a border wall, so explain why you are voting to reopen parts of the government even without that border wall funding.

KINZINGER: Yeah, it's pretty simple - 'cause I think shutdowns are stupid. It's a dumb way to govern. It's, you know, us not being adults and being able to get past our disagreements. And it's kind of become a weapon now for both parties. And so for me, you know, if I can vote to reopen parts of government, frankly, that don't have anything to do with this wall argument, I'm going to vote for it because, in essence, we're holding hostages. And the more we can release those hostages in this negotiation, the better.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that argument is persuasive to other members of your own party, or are they just going to be feeling more pressure as the shutdown continues day by day?

KINZINGER: Yeah, I don't know. It's going to be hard to tell. This is approaching the longest shutdown in the country. So, you know, what kind of pressure that is, I don't know. I don't fault anybody on either party for how they voted in any of this because each member has to take that into account. I just look at it and I go, we've got to get past, in this country, the point to where we use a lapse in appropriations as a way to do something. And I'll tell you, this is a really easy - immigration, I think, is a really easy issue to solve. But there's one key thing that has to happen. Both sides have to be OK with losing a little something. And both sides have to be OK with giving the other side some kind of win. And unfortunately, our politics is such now that it's only winners and losers, and that's how we see it.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about the president's proposal to declare a national emergency in order to use the military to build a wall. This morning, he repeated the idea. And this afternoon, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he believes Trump should do it. Here's how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to that idea today.


NANCY PELOSI: I think he's going to have to answer to his own party on usurping that much power.

SHAPIRO: Answer to his own party on usurping that much power. Do you agree with that assessment, that the president would pay a price among Republicans if he does that?

KINZINGER: Yeah. I don't - again, I - not trying to equivocate. I just don't know. And it depends what a declaration of emergency looks like. It depends what kind of - you know, are resources coming from military readiness? What are they - you know, how is that going to be utilized? I do think the southern border is a - look, I have worked the southern border as an Air National Guard pilot. It is not secure, and it needs to be secure. And we can solve all these other major issues when we secure it. Whether a declaration of emergency is the case, I'd have to see the details of that. I would much rather Congress actually do the role that we are supposed to in the Constitution, which is to be adults, grown-ups and figure out how to get through this without having to go to such big measures.

SHAPIRO: As an Air Force veteran, do you think it's an appropriate use of the military to build a wall on the southern U.S. border?

KINZINGER: Yeah, I don't have - I actually don't have a problem with the use of the military on the border. I actually - in a couple weeks, I'm going to the border with the Air National Guard to do some border missions down there. So I think there's a place where it's appropriate. Now, that is not an armed situation. It's not, you know, standing there with guns and guarding. But I think there's an appropriate use. Again, a lot of that devil, in my view, is going to be in the details. What does a declaration look like? I'd much rather Congress, Republicans, the Democrats for once give each other the opportunity to have a win, take a little loss and actually fix this for the American people.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last minute, tell me about what you're hearing from your constituents as this shutdown drags on.

KINZINGER: Yeah, they're not happy. I mean, you have folks on all sides of this debate - you know, some that want to just keep it shut until this whole thing gets done. I look at the people that aren't going to be getting a paycheck, and it's sad. You know, they'll get paid. But many people live paycheck to paycheck. And I look at the greatest country in the world with a representative democracy that is a model for everybody, and we are going into shutdown as a way to do stuff. And I don't like it. And I didn't come out here to play shutdown politics. I came out to actually get some things done. Whether you agree or disagree with me, that's the purpose of being out here.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, thanks for joining us today.

KINZINGER: Any time. You bet. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.