Vice President Mike Pence seemed to squirm in his seat today when a reporter told him “You could open the government tomorrow” and suggested that he and Trump are maintaining the shutdown for the leverage. Pence may have been expecting to have an easier time in his interview, since it was on Fox News, but the reporter in question, Chris Wallace, did not just give Pence an easy pass.
Pence was claiming that he and Trump were working on Americans’ priorities, among which Pence listed securing the border, for which Trump’s border wall figures prominently their plan. Never mind that multiple polls show that the majority of Americans do not support the wall, and so it is not true that building it is a priority for Americans. Meanwhile, the shutdown caused by Trump’s demand for funding for his wall, this shutdown of record length, has left 800,000 federal employees without paychecks. Wallace pushed back on Pence’s claims, saying about Trump’s priorities, according to The Hill, “No, isn’t it really that you just want the leverage? And that you figure if you don’t keep the government closed, that then they’re going to go nowhere?”. According to The Hill:
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday asked Vice President Pence if the government shutdown was a mechanism for the Trump administration to gain “leverage” in its fight to get funding for border security. The question from Wallace came as Pence argued that “what the American people want us to do is work on their priorities,” including securing the U.S.-Mexico border. “No, isn’t it really that you just want the leverage?” Wallace asked on “Fox News Sunday.” “And that you figure if you don’t keep the government closed, that then they’re going to go nowhere?”…Pence on Sunday argued that “the American people want action on our southern border.” “They want border security, 800,000 federal workers want us to find a way to open the government,” Pence said. “You could open the government tomorrow,” Wallace responded, repeating the statement several times. “The House has passed bills to open the government tomorrow. Why don’t you sign them and open the government and then you can negotiate about this?” he continued
Here is an excerpt of Pence’s interview with Chris Wallace from a tweet in which the writer added “Chris Wallace presses Pence: ‘You could open the government tomorrow’ … ‘Isn’t it really that you just want the leverage?’.”
Chris Wallace presses Pence: "You could open the government tomorrow" … "Isn't it really that you just want the leverage?" pic.twitter.com/4hubr65EIi
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) January 20, 2019
Of course most people are aware that Trump is maintaining the shutdown in order to use it as leverage to get what he wants, which in this case is $5.7 billion to get a start on his border wall. Still, it is interesting to see Pence called out on that use of leverage and to see Pence try to deny that they are using the shutdown as leverage, which clearly is not true. If Trump weren’t trying to use the shutdown as leverage, he could allow the government to reopen using those appropriations bills passed by the Democratic-majority House, and then negotiate for his priorities, but clearly that is not happening.
Pence probably didn’t expect that sort questioning from Fox News, but Chris Wallace didn’t give him the kid gloves treatment that Fox News so often gives those in the Trump administration.