WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents most of western Minnesota and has always been one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, said Tuesday, Jan. 22, that he favors building a wall “where it’s most appropriate” and has joined with another of the longest-serving members of the House in penning a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to immediately reopen the government.
The congressman from Detroit Lakes has been voting for House measures to reopen the federal government and provide increased border security, but he also said he believes the House should give in and support some wall funding demanded by Trump in addition to other border crossing technologies.
In a clarifying statement provided Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 23, Peterson emphasized that he only favors wall funding with conditions.
He said that "this wall is clearly needed in some places, and in some places it's clearly not. My point is and has always been that if we're going to do this we've got to put conditions on a deal to make sure that the wall goes in those places where it's needed, and not in the places that call for more targeted and smarter resources.
"To determine that, the people who are experts on what local jurisdictions along the border need — local Customs and Border Protection officials, mayors, county officials and governors — must have input on the effectiveness of a wall and the needs of their individual communities," he said.
Peterson also said it was critically important that the federal government doesn't use eminent domain to take land for wall construction and that environmental regulations are followed in any land clearance or construction.
Meanwhile, Peterson and U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the longest-serving member of the House, were writing a bipartisan letter on Tuesday, Jan. 22, and adding co-signers as the longest government shutdown continued.
The draft of the letter states that "For the good of our country, we call on you to end the brinkmanship and commit to legislation that would immediately reopen the government. We represent constituents who support strengthened border security, including expanded physical barriers where appropriate. The government shutdown is not moving us closer to a more secure border and is in fact making our country less safe."
The two congressmen also said effective border security "will take years to establish and requires bipartisan buy-in to be lasting."
They said they were willing to work with Trump and congressional leaders to secure the border and "end this wasteful government shutdown."
Peterson said in an earlier statement that the negative effects of the shutdown are adding up. He said the White House Council of Economic Advisers recently doubled the shutdown's impact on first quarter GDP growth, dropping it by 2 percent.
In addition, Peterson, who serves as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he is continuing to hear from hundreds of residents of the Seventh District that stretches from the Canadian border south to near the Iowa border that negative impacts are being felt, especially by the many farmers in the district.
With Farm Service Agency offices closed until Jan. 24, Peterson said farmers are complaining about not being able to discuss operating loans for 2019, they can't cash checks from grain and livestock sales, nor can they apply for crop storage loans. Farmers also say they aren't able to sign up for programs in the recently approved farm bill.
He said small businesses are also being hurt because loan applications from the Small Business Administration are being delayed and licensing for new businesses by other agencies are halted. He gave as an example the Fergus Brewing Co. in Fergus Falls, which cannot brew its products without a license.
He also listed concerns about tax returns and advice from the IRS, Homeland Security furloughs that leave Americans less safe and the possibility of food stamps being cut off if the shutdown continues.
Peterson said bipartisan compromise is "the only option for a long-term solution."