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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. David Price (D-NC)


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very soon 17 bipartisan lawmakers will meet for the first time in hopes of negotiating a border security plan to avoid another shutdown.

One of them, one of the members of that committee, Congressman David Price of the great state of North Carolina.

Congressman Price, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. DAVID PRICE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you. Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: Let's get right, if we can, to the border and to a barrier there or a wall, which is clearly the linchpin from the president's perspective of a budget deal.

Several of your Democratic colleagues, Senator John Tester, Senator Bob Casey on our air yesterday, Hakeem Jefferies have said they would vote in support of a barrier, money for a barrier, fencing, on the wall. Would you do the same?

PRICE: Well, a barrier, a fence in appropriate places is clearly an ingredient in border security.

I was chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee some time ago and we -- when we built almost 700 miles of fence, or at least that's the total that we brought it to. And so that -- that is something we've been able and willing to support in the past.

I'd say, just very quickly, four things have changed since then, though. First of all, we do have that 650 plus miles of fence, even though the president still talks about open borders. Secondly, we have a different migrant mix coming now from Central America with a lot of children, families, people actually turning themselves in. So a barrier isn't relevant. Thirdly, we have pressing needs for border security that I think are much more important than a physical barrier now, especially the need to have more personnel, more equipment at our ports of entry, which is where most of the illegal cargo comes in. And then, fourthly, the president, there's just no escaping, the president has made this a very toxic debate with just reprehensible policies regarding deportations, regarding family separations, regarding refugee --

SCIUTTO: Right. PRICE: Refusing refugees. And so there's no question that has made that -- this debate more complicated.

SCIUTTO: But I'm -- I'm curious if you are open to giving some money for -- because the president -- what has also changed is the president has reduced, in effect, his demand. He says no longer a wall from sea to shining sea but a barrier for some hundreds of miles. That's a position you've supported. Would you vote for a deal that includes money for such a barrier?

PRICE: The president hasn't changed a thing. I mean John Kelly said that from the very beginning. He's the one who coined the phrase sea to shining sea a couple of years ago.

No, the president is threatening a shutdown. That's what's wrong with the president's position. He's saying that he wants to take -- he's demanding a ransom here. And that's totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable and --

SCIUTTO: But would you -- would you -- is the Democratic Party -- are you and your colleagues willing to see another shutdown and to stand firm and say, as Nancy Pelosi has said, no money whatsoever for a wall?

PRICE: We are -- we are prepared for a conference that discusses the full range of not just border security, and, after all, the border security is about a lot more than a wall or a physical barrier, and Homeland Security is about more than border security. For example, we need polar ice breakers. We need lots of things. And I'll tell you, in that Homeland Security bill that we're conferencing, any money you take for a physical barrier, where the president has upped the ante here and demanded this money, it has to come away from things like ice breaker and customs officers and these other things. So we have some tough decisions to make about how to do this within some pretty tight budget constraints.

SCIUTTO: Are you going to meet with the president?

PRICE: There are no plans to do that right now. I certainly hope the Republican conferees are meeting with the president because they have to have some assurance that he trusts them to negotiate an agreement and is not going to blow it up at the end, as he -- as he has so often before.

[09:35:12] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You, of course, come from North Carolina. There's a House race there that a federal judge has refused to certify because of credible allegations of election fraud.

PRICE: Right.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe that the only way forward is a new election in that seat?

PRICE: I -- from what I've seen so far, I think that election is hopelessly compromised and probably a new election will be required. But I'm not prepared to say that definitively. We need to have an investigation that fully runs its course. We've had an unrelated problem with our state board of elections being dully (ph) constituted. That is now going to be remedied this week. We're going to have a new board of elections. They're going to pick up on this investigation. And our attitude here in the House, even though we have ultimate jurisdiction over who is seated, our attitude here is that the state board of elections needs to do its work and that an investigation needs to run its course.

SCIUTTO: Final question. Senator Kamala Harris has ignited something of a firestorm in the Democratic Party by announcing her support for Medicare for all. Do you support such a plan? And, crucially, how would the Democratic Party suggest paying for it?

PRICE: Well, this -- this is, of course, becoming a litmus test that some people want to apply to Ms. Harris and other -- other candidates. You know, the answer is that the Democratic Party, and the leadership of this country I think, needs to do three things at once. We need to, first of all, prevent the sabotage of the Affordable Care Act. We need to make some -- make sure that people with pre-existing conditions are covered and all the rest. We need to make sure the Trump administration doesn't sabotage it further.

Secondly, we need to build on it. I'd like to see a public option within the Affordable Care Act. I'd like to see Medicare buy-in. And then, thirdly, we need to think about ultimately what kind of path we take to universal coverage. You know, you've got to do all three things at the same time and -- and I would hope our presidential candidates would -- would understand that.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Price, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

PRICE: Thank you.


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