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Rep. Scott Perry On Threat Of Government Shutdown

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Congress is once again staring down a major deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Republican leaders are pushing a short-term funding bill, basically a patch to keep the government funded through mid-February. But do they have the votes? Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president certainly doesn't want a shutdown. And if one happens, I think you only have one place to look, and that's to the Democrats.

GREENE: Many Democrats do say they want a deal on immigration before passing a spending bill. But there are some more conservative Republicans in the House who could stand in the way as well. Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania is one of them. He's a Republican and member of the House Freedom Caucus, and he joins me on the line. Hey, Congressman.

SCOTT PERRY: Hey, good morning, glad to be here.

GREENE: So I know you were the - you were opposed to the last short-term funding measure. Are you going to oppose this one as well?

PERRY: Well, something's got to change. I've got to tell you that. We - if anybody is keeping track and paying attention, I think this is the third or fourth one we've done. We just do them every about four weeks at a time - three weeks, four weeks at a time. And my question becomes what is going to change to break this stalemate, this cycle? Because as far as I can tell, we're just going to keep on doing three or four-week continuing resolutions. And there's a reason for all this, but somebody's got to have the courage to just say enough is enough, and we're going to fund the government to the end of the fiscal year. And so far, none of our leadership has been able to tell me or anybody else quite honestly how that's going to happen. They just keep on saying we've got to do this, this funding package, and of course, this one goes from February 6 - to February 16. So we're looking at another four weeks.

GREENE: Yeah. It's not very long. It's sort of another patch. Well, that's sort of - that seems like a longer term question, whether you should keep doing these patchwork bills or not. But in terms of getting you on board with this one - I mean, we're talking about hours now. What would you need to vote for this?

PERRY: Well, I will tell you, I'd like to see us just do the - the House has done the 12 appropriations bills. We did those last September. That's what the Senate's supposed to do. And then we figure out our differences and send that to the Senate - or to the president. That aside - because the Senate's certainly not going to get their appropriations done in the next two days or something like that - but we at least ought to fund the military till the end of the year. These continuing resolutions are particularly hard on the military. And if you think about things like the - you know, in the Marine Corps, fatalities and flying accidents have increased twofold in the last 10 years. Five of 58 brigade combat teams are ready to fight in the Army. The Navy's - half their aircraft can't fly due to maintenance. The Air Force is 50 percent sufficient and ready to fly.

This is the circumstance for our military, and it's particularly hard on them because they can't - under continuing resolutions, no policies change. So they must continue to fund programs that don't work, and they're disallowed from funding programs that they've asked for to modernize and to move forward. And so they just remain in a status quo circumstance month by month by month. And it seems to me that at a minimum, House members, Senate members, Democrats and Republicans, ought to agree to fund the folks that are trying to keep our nation safe, that are out on the front lines, and at least do that to the end of the fiscal year so they have some predictability and they can move forward. But it's being held hostage. It's being held hostage, and I just think it's inappropriate.

GREENE: If I could ask you, Congressman - I mean, you have some things you're standing on principle, like military funding. Democrats standing on principle on immigration, some saying they want a deal on that. I just wonder - don't we seem to be approaching maybe a moment of bipartisanship? I mean, the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, suggesting a border wall doesn't necessarily have to be this imposing presence on the border. I mean, Democrats are open to talking about the military. Why not fund the government one more time and let these negotiations really play out?

PERRY: I'm all - look, I agree with funding it one more time and letting the negotiations play out, but I have no reason - no reasonable expectation whatsoever - that funding it for another 30 days is going to produce - we've been having this immigration discussion for decades quite honestly.

GREENE: But just - we only have a couple seconds, though. You will vote for this one, you agree with one more to let the negotiations play out?

PERRY: Well (laughter) I think we need a little more tighter terms than just letting negotiations play out. We need some assurances that things are going to be different in the next - you know, four weeks later.

GREENE: Congressman Scott Perry, I appreciate it.

PERRY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.