Jones talks shutdown, auto tariffs in weekly media call

Published 4:48 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, held his weekly media call Thursday to discuss the ongoing government shutdown, quickly nearing the end of its first month, and proposed legislation to stall plans for auto tariffs.

“I can’t begin to express the frustration,” Jones said of the shutdown, which currently has numerous government services closed. “I am hearing from people from Alabama struggling to pay their bills.”

Jones noted that border security is widely supported among Congressional Democrats, but that security should not hinge on the construction of a wall along the southern border, the construction for which President Donald Trump has demanded more than $5 billion.

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“We can come to an agreement on border security if we can just get the government open,” Jones said. “There are any number of people that, in good faith, will talk about border security. Until the president decides he’s going to come to the table and discuss that, I don’t know that we’re going to have much progress.”

Jones is advocating that the Senate pass a bill, which has already cleared the U.S. House of Representatives, that would open the portions of government not related to border security while talks continue on how to properly address illegal immigration.

Further, Jones would like to see plans to utilize technology as part of plans to boost border security measures and hear from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), currently closed due to the shutdown, on what measures would best serve that purpose.

Elsewhere in the call, Jones noted that the government shutdown is taking a toll on national security as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard are not being paid for their work.

Jones briefly discussed his bipartisan legislation to delay auto tariffs floated by Trump in the hope of saving jobs across Alabama. The bill would provide the president with an “independent look” at the negative impact the tariffs would have and undermine the administration’s theory that imported vehicles and auto parts could pose a “national security threat.”

“There’s no question that the auto industry is not a national security threat,” Jones said.

Jones also noted that he would prefer for the “State of the Union” address to go on as planned, despite the ongoing shutdown, even though the event has become a “sideshow” in recent years.

Jones also discussed his effort to have the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) resume its home loan program for rural communities – to date, Jones has not received a response to the Jan. 9 letter he addressed to the department making such a call.

“It’s frustrating having to promote band-aids and that’s what we’re doing,” Jones said. “Having said that, we are where we are. I’m going to have to focus on the band-aids.”

Jones noted that Congress is supposed to be in recess next week but may convene in an effort to tackle and put an end to the government shutdown.

“Hopefully, the log jam will break and we’ll get this government up and running,” Jones said.