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After Several Chaotic Days, Where Does DACA Deal Stand?

Jan 16, 2018
Originally published on January 16, 2018 6:11 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump doesn't sound very optimistic about an immigration deal. He tweeted yesterday that, quote, "deals can't get made when there is no trust." He was talking about the top Democrat in immigration negotiations. This is Senator Dick Durbin, who stands by his account of the president using vulgar language to describe African nations in a meeting last week about immigration. The president is blaming Democrats for the standoff on an immigration deal, but Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says it is on the president to make this happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIS TELEVSION BROADCAST)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mr. President, close the deal. Eighty percent of Americans want to give the DACA kids a better life, and 80 percent of Americans want to secure our border and change a broken immigration system. It's going to take you, Mr. President, to get this done.

MARTIN: That was from WIS Television in South Carolina. So NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is in the studio with us to talk about this.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: Where do talks stand? I mean, the key to all of this - the government shutdown is contingent on a spending bill. And the spending bill's contingent on a DACA solution - so DACA solution coming?

SNELL: We are in a point where people are just buying time. So the idea is that the House is preparing to pass some sort of short-term spending bill. That would give them about another month to keep negotiating. Democrats haven't said where they stand on a short-term spending bill, but they do say they don't want a government shutdown. Nobody wants a government shutdown. They want more time to reach a deal. Problem is, they don't know what a deal would look like at this point because there was one bipartisan negotiation happening, and that was the negotiation between six senators that happened last week, and that was rejected by the White House.

MARTIN: So the president says this is tough because there's no trust, in his words, to get a deal done. But isn't he the one who said last week that he was going to sign whatever Congress came up with? And then he reneged on that promise.

SNELL: Right. I have spoken with many Democrats who say they don't know what comes next because they don't know what to believe. We heard Senator Graham say that it was on the president. And that's in part because Trump said in that big televised event at the White House that he would take the heat, that he would sign anything. And they took him at his word on that. And then when this White House meeting happened on Thursday, that no longer seemed to be the case. And Democrats felt blindsided by the scenario they entered.

MARTIN: Lay out first the strategic play by Democrats and Republicans in this moment.

SNELL: Democrats think that there is reason to get a deal because both sides - Republicans, Democrats, the White House - all of them have said that they want an agreement for DREAMers. They don't want these 700,000, 800,000 people to be left in a situation where they don't know what happens in March. The - they hope that that is enough to get everybody on the same page. Republicans, on the other hand - there is a faction of the hard-line Republicans, particularly in the House, who view this as an opportunity to remind the president what he ran on and try to move the entire Congress further to the right. They think that if the House can pass a tougher immigration bill, it will put pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate to put that bill up for a vote in the Senate.

MARTIN: But could they do that without Democratic support?

SNELL: They can't get that passed in the Senate. There just simply aren't enough votes. This would require 60 votes, and there are not 60 Republicans in the Senate.

MARTIN: So when you think about the fact that a DACA solution was something that it appeared that both parties were all in for - right? - like, everyone agreed this is untenable; we've got to fix this. If they can't make this happen, what does it portend for the future in what is already complicated because it's an election year?

SNELL: It's very difficult to see how Congress does much of anything if they get this DACA deal done and they get a spending bill done that funds them through the end of the year. So they say they want to do infrastructure and these big-idea things that take time, and they take more agreement than they seem to have.

MARTIN: NPR's Kelsey Snell for us this morning. Thanks so much, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.