Immigration Deal Remains Sticking Point In Negotiations To Reopen Government

Jan 20, 2018
Originally published on January 21, 2018 5:02 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And we're going to turn now to NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis on Capitol Hill. Susan, thanks so much for being with us.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: As you just heard, Senator Van Hollen said, I think there's a, quote, "bipartisan agreement" to be had. Both houses of Congress are back at work today. Do you see any sign of that?

DAVIS: There's a lot of talk but not much action just yet and a fair amount of hard feelings at the moment. House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke on the floor earlier today. And here's a sense of the mood of the Republicans right now.

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PAUL RYAN: The federal government is needlessly shut down because of Senate Democrats. One party in one house of this Congress is deliberately holding our government hostage.

DAVIS: At this stage, I would say that it's really more about finger pointing. Republicans are calling this the Schumer shutdown - in terms of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. He also spoke earlier today. He is calling this the Trump shutdown.

SIMON: So after everybody has gotten their soundbites...

DAVIS: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...What's ahead for the rest of the day? Do they ever talk to each other?

DAVIS: There is another plan on the table. We don't know where it's going to go yet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to offer another short-term funding resolution. The original that Democrats blocked in the Senate would have carried the government through Feb. 16. Mitch McConnell wants to offer another one through Feb. 8. We're in a bit of a wait-and-see mode right now to see if that's something Senate Democrats can support. In the House, the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said if the Senate can pass that, he is confident that the House can do the same.

SIMON: President - forgive me - President Trump has been tweeting - that's a tongue twister - tweeting all morning. He's blamed Democrats, accused them of putting illegal immigration ahead of the military. He's also been speaking with Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan. How much do Republican lawmakers need or want of direction from the White House. Senator Van Hollen, for example, suggested, just let us talk to each other and then bring it to the president's desk.

DAVIS: The president has certainly injected a fair amount of confusion into these negotiations. He was for a bipartisan proposal. Then he initially opposed it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was at the White House yesterday. He thought he had another agreement with the president on an immigration deal that would have included more money for the wall. Schumer says the White House rejected that proposal again last night. Schumer talked on the Senate floor today, and he talked about Democrats' frustration in dealing with the White House. And this is what he had to say.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: What's even more frustrating than President Trump's intransigence is the way he seems amenable to these compromises before completely switching positions and backing off. Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.

DAVIS: I think you can hear in both Speaker Ryan and Leader Schumer's voices that compromise doesn't necessarily seem like it's at hand right now. There's going to be extensive talks and meetings behind the scenes on Capitol Hill. But how and when this ends we simply just don't know yet.

SIMON: So do you perceive that either side is feeling any kind of impetus to negotiate any kind of warning from their political base, from what we call these days the donor class? - that you just can't let this go on too long.

DAVIS: It's just too early to tell yet. I don't think most of the country has absorbed the fact that the federal government shut down. The practical effect is most people will continue to go about their day-to-day lives. I do think in this climate, it's always important to note that President Trump right now has about a 38-percent approval rating. It's the lowest point for any president at this time in his presidency. And in that mood, Democrats think that they have a leverage point there.

SIMON: NPR's Susan Davis at the Capitol, thanks so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.