Trump ‘willing to have a conversation about citizenship’ for DACA recipients, says White House official

PBS NewsHour Politics 9 months ago

Immigration was one of the contentious issues that led Congress to its funding impasse and forced a government shutdown. Now that the shutdown has been resolved, can lawmakers make progress on other contentious topics? Judy Woodruff gets reactions to the compromise and each party’s priorities from Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Read the Full Transcript

Judy Woodruff:

We return now to our lead story, the compromise struck to get the government back to work for now.

I sat down just a short time ago with Marc Short, director of legislative affairs at the White House, to ask President Trump’s reaction to the deal.

Marc Short:

Well, Judy, we’re pleased that the government has reopened.

We never understood what the position was of Senate Democrats to take American troops hostage and Customs and Border Patrol agents hostage over an issue that really they — everything in the bill that’s in front of them from a continuing resolution to reauthorizing children’s health insurance, there was nothing Democrats opposed.

There was a separate issue that was not on the table they were trying to inject into this. So we’re pleased the government is open, and now we can reopen negotiations with Democrats on the DACA issue and immigration.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, let’s talk about that separate issue, the DACA recipients, these young people who came to this country with their parents, without documentation, but, again, as you say, through no fault of their own.

Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, said today that the president is now prepared to accept permanent residency, a permanent solution for them. What does that mean? Does that mean citizenship?

Marc Short:

The president is willing to have a conversation about citizenship, Judy.

I think that, in addition to that, so far in the negotiations, where we have moved is that Democrats have said that the 690,000 people who have those DACA permits that are age 16 to 36, who have those DACA work permits, that has been a discussion so far. But Democrats have asked us to expand that to include others in there and including something closer to the number in the full DREAM Act.

We have said we’re willing to do that, Judy. So, we think there’s actually a lot of significant progress on our side to the things that they have asked for. In addition, it seems that Democrats have had a lot more willingness to talk about the needs we have on border security that Customs and Border Patrol has said is needed to help secure the southern border.

So we see progress. It was all the more reason we were confounded by why Democrats decided to shut down the government when there was progress going on in the negotiations.

Judy Woodruff:

So, if we’re talking about a deal, then, potentially citizenship for these DACA recipients, the Democrats are prepared to give money on the wall, there still is real disagreement over some of these other issues.

The Republicans call it chain migration.

Marc Short:

Right.

Judy Woodruff:

Democrats talk about family immigration, so-called visa lottery.

But are you saying the president is prepared for a deal without those other issues being adjudicated?

Marc Short:

No, Judy, I’m not saying that.

I think that there was four pillars we talked about. And there are some issues the Republicans initially had beyond that and some of the Democrats had beyond that. We narrowed it to the four issues of DACA, border security, the chain family immigration, as welcome as the visa lottery program.

We still think those are very important for a couple reasons. One, if we don’t solve that problem now, what’s going to happen is, we will get a bill that passes just regarding DACA and border security, and we’re going to end up in the same place a few years from now, because you create an incentive for more people to come if they feel like there is going to continue to be amnesty given to them.

So we need to solve the migration issue. As well, on the visa lottery front — you have covered this, I think, too — this year, the two terrorists attacks, one, the pipe bomber, one who ran over innocent people with a truck, one came in on chain migration, one on a visa lottery.

We think there are legitimate security needs that we need to tighten in our country. And so we want resolution to those programs too.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, we want to — there is much more to discuss about immigration. It’s a huge issue. And we’re going to be coming back to that in the weeks to come before this debate resumes.

But I want to ask you about the president’s role in this, because the picture that emerged over the weekend, some Democrats who met with the president were part of saying this, Senator Lindsey Graham, that the president was there, but he was basically listening to the last person he talked to, that he would say one thing to a senator, I agree with you, and then be would swayed by his staff members who have a much more restrictionist view of immigration than he does.

How much of this is the president being swayed or controlled by his staff?

Marc Short:

Judy, the president is very engaged in this, and he’s not being controlled by his staff.

The reality is that I know Lindsey Graham has attacked Stephen Miller by name, in person, as one of the president’s advisers. Stephen knows an enormous amount about immigration. He is going to be central to a solution.

He knows where there’s give on the Republican side. He knows what the Democrat side wants. And so he’s advising the president appropriately. I think that some of that’s been a bad mischaracterization by some of the senators involved, because I think they called him and said, we have got a great deal, we want to come talk to you about it.

Judy Woodruff:

Right.

Marc Short:

They came to the White House and presented it.

When they did, it was pretty hollow in those areas we were most concerned about. And so I think they were frustrated and disappointed the president wasn’t accepting it. But, frankly, they weren’t presenting it to the president over the phone the way in reality it was when they came and showed us exactly what they were doing.

Judy Woodruff:

But how do you — you still have this picture of a president who was changing his view, his position from one hour to the next or with a few hours later, and a president who wasn’t familiar with the details. I mean, that came out in several — from several senators who met with him.

Marc Short:

I think from several senators on the Democrat side, Judy, who want to paint that portrait. I don’t think it’s an accurate portrait.

I think the president is very engaged in the conversations. He’s been very focused on what he wants done. I think when the American people got to see the meeting he hosted last Tuesday with 20 different members, bicameral, bipartisan, I think the American people saw how the president engages in those conversations and where he was focused on them.

Judy Woodruff:

And Senator Graham was saying, I want the president from last Tuesday, and not the other president we have been hearing about and talking to.

Marc Short:

Well, we hope that Senator Graham will be constructive in this conversation. He has been a help to us on many fronts throughout the first year of this administration.

But, again, we felt that what he presented to the president over the phone was not in reality what matched when you actually looked at the details of their legislation.

So, for instance, when they talk about they’re solving the border security, they provided the $1.6 billion that our administration asked for this year, but nothing beyond that. But, further, that 1.6, also, they put additional strings on it and said that any new technology or testing can’t be used.

Well, the Department of Homeland Security is constantly testing new prototypes for what they want as a physical barrier. So there’s a lot of things in the details that, when presented, it showed the president that it wasn’t really I think an honest, up-front deal.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, we’re going to leave it there, but we will be certainly wanting to talk to you in the days and weeks to come on immigration and other issues.

Marc Short, thank you very much.

Marc Short:

Judy, thanks for having me.

Judy Woodruff:

And now for a Democrat’s take on the deal to end the government shutdown, we turn to Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He’s a member of the party’s Senate leadership team and he joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Welcome back to the NewsHour, Senator Van Hollen.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Great to be here, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:

So we just heard Marc Short saying they don’t know what the delay was all about. The Democrats held things up basically for nothing.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

So, Judy, I’m glad to hear Marc Short say that President Trump is glad to see the government open, because Donald Trump had everything to do with shutting down the government in the first place, and nothing to do over the last 34, 36 hours in getting the government up and running.

He was only a destructive influence, because he would say one thing to one set of folks and the opposite to others. So, the reason we were able to get the government open was because Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came together, put together a proposal that is a step forward, where we were assured that many of our funding priorities would be addressed when it comes to things like children’s health centers and, for the first time, we were promised a vote on a bipartisan DACA bill, something that Republicans have refused to do until now.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, that’s what I want to ask you about, because there are some Democrats, members of your own party, who are saying they still don’t trust that the majority leader, McConnell, is going to bring this up for a vote.

What gives you the confidence in what he said over the weekend and today that he is going to do what he said he will do?

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Well, first of all, Judy, he said this to the American people. He didn’t say this just behind closed doors.

Second, he made this commitment to lots and lots of Republican senators who want to move forward on DACA. And, third, even after three weeks, we still have a lot of leverage with respect to the budget process. We would all like to get on with the budget process, but it’s an opportunity to make sure that Mitch McConnell keeps his word on this.

In the meantime, our focus has to be on getting a strong bipartisan bill — 57 senators so far support the Durbin-Graham bill. We want to get over that number, and I’m confident that we can get there.

And, look, if Mitch McConnell decides to totally backtrack on the statement he made in public, I think there will be very severe consequences and many tools that can be used to address that issue.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, I’m looking right now at the vote in the House of Representatives, and I see that 142 Democrats, I’m told, voted against this, 45 voted for.

You had, what, 18 Democrats voting against it in the Senate. Some of them are saying they’re worried that what’s going to happen is, you are going to get down to the wire before February the 8th, that the Republican leadership will try to rush something through, and the Democrats will lose an ability to shape immigration legislation.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Well, Judy, I think there’s a bipartisan majority, as I said, already 57 senators on a bill outlined by Senators Graham and Durbin.

So, that’s a very good starting point to go into this with, and I think we will gain on in terms of those numbers, and that was something that we’d not been promised before. In other words, Mitch McConnell had refused to even address the issue of DACA legislatively.

Look, there is absolutely no guarantee that, you know, if the government had remained shut down for two, three more weeks that there would be any resolution of the DACA issue in the spending bill.

Meanwhile, we now have this opportunity. And everybody should join forces. Everybody who wants to make sure that dreamers are treated fairly should join forces, get this bipartisan bill out of the Senate in the next — in the coming weeks, and then put a huge amount of public pressure on the House. If we can put a bill into the House, then the country will have to be calling, you know, the phones and going to town halls and making sure the House moves forward on this.

Judy Woodruff:

Senator, you started out by saying the president had not been helpful in this process. And there has been criticism of the president being an uncertain negotiator.

But we just heard Marc Short, the White House legislative director, say the president is willing to have a conversation about citizenship for these DACA recipients. What does that mean to you?

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Well, that would be great if what he just said today is something that he will also say tomorrow.

You remember this goes way back to last September, when President Trump told both Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi he was willing to do a dreamers bill, a clean dreamers bill. That was many, many, many months ago.

Then we saw him in front of the cameras tell people that he wanted a bill of love and that he would sign whatever bipartisan proposal came before his desk. And then we had the subsequent meeting at the White House, where he used repulsive, racist language and blew the whole thing up.

He was totally unconstructive in the aftermath of Chuck Schumer’s meeting, where we thought we made progress and then he turned around and did nothing.

So, look, the good news is, we were able to get the government back up and running, despite the president of the United States, who has only been a negative influence. If the president was in charge, the government would still be shut down right now.

In fact, there were reports saying that he thought it was a good thing for him. And, of course, he did once tweet he wanted a — quote — “good government shutdown.”

Our statement to the president is, there are no good government shutdowns, and there are ways to resolve these issues in a bipartisan manner.

Judy Woodruff:

Finally, Senator, how confident are you that this — whatever spirit of bipartisanship, if you want to call it that, is going to continue for any period of time?

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Well, you have to take this one issue at a time, Judy.

And I hope we can move forward on the key budget issues, obviously the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but funding community health centers, dealing with the opioid crisis, making sure we not have not only a good, strong, robust defense spending budget, but that we invest in our kids’ education.

All of that, I hope we can tackle. And I do believe — I know, in fact, that there is a bipartisan majority here in favor of a dreamers bill, a bill to help provide security to dreamers. And so let’s get the vote on that. Let’s focus on getting that done.

So this is — is it everything all at once? No. Is it a step forward? Does it build momentum? Yes.

Judy Woodruff:

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, thank you very much.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen:

Thank you.

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