Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) defended her decision on Wednesday to join a bipartisan group of members of Congress that met with President Trump and his top aides to discuss the partial federal shutdown.
“If I am given the opportunity to speak directly with the president and voice how the shutdown is hurting the people in my district, I think it would be a dereliction of my duty to not use that opportunity,” she said in a phone interview after the meeting.
“I’m happy I had the opportunity to be a strong voice for the people of my district,” she added.
Seven Democrats and a number of Republican members who are part of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus attended the meeting in the Situation Room of the White House.
Spanberger, a freshman and former CIA officer who unseated Republican Dave Brat, said she told the president about the struggling prison guards, Transportation Security Administration agents and air traffic controllers who live in her suburban Richmond district.
She declined to go into detail about the conversation or other attendees but said it was a “productive meeting” with “a lot of back-and-forth discussion.”
Spanberger said building a wall across the entire length of the southern border is ineffective and inefficient. Instead, she would like conversations to focus on analysis by intelligence and law enforcement officers of their needs.
“We currently have fencing,” she said. “We’re currently building fencing. So having a reductive conversation where it’s ‘wall, no wall’ is exactly part of the problem. I am in favor of talking about: ‘What is our overall strategy?’ Be it mile by mile or five miles by five miles, whatever is necessary.”
Spanberger flipped a red district in the Richmond suburbs by channeling anger toward the Trump administration among Democrats and independents, without turning off conservatives and moderate Republicans.
In an op-ed published Wednesday by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, she called for an end the shutdown and introduced a bill, with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), that would protect the pay of federal law enforcement and military personnel during shutdowns.
She was one of 15 Democrats who did not vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as House speaker, as promised on the campaign trail.
“I intend to be a very productive member of this caucus, and that is exactly what I’m doing,” Spanberger said Wednesday.