House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer now says that border walls “obviously work [in] some places” and are not “immoral,” breaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the partial government shutdown standoff.
Mr. Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat leader, also acknowledged Wednesday that President Trump had backed off plans for a concrete wall spanning the U.S.-Mexico border. It potentially signaled an opening for negotiations, which have been stalled since the partial shutdown began 27 days ago.
“Obviously, they work [in] some places,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said Wednesday evening on Fox News when pressed about Mr. Trump’s border wall plan. “But the president wanted to first build a wall — apparently 1,954 miles of [wall] — and he changed that very substantially.”
It was unclear if Mr. Hoyer was floating a trial balloon for a deal to end the shutdown, or if he was just off script.
Mr. Hoyer also broke with Mrs. Pelosi’s statement that a border wall is an “immorality,” though he still said White House rhetoric on immigration was racist.
“A wall that protects people is not immoral. I think the issue is whether it works,” Mr. Hoyer said. “And the debate ought to be not on morality or racism. I will say that we are not pleased with some rhetoric that has come about dealing with those coming across the border, and we think some of the rhetoric was in fact racist. We think some of that rhetoric was to inflame and was not based upon facts.”
Democrats’ opposition to Mr. Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a fence or barrier on the southern border has been grounded in claims that walls don’t work.