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With Congress back in session, lawmakers are facing an end-of-the-week deadline in order to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown. Meanwhile, President Trump is demanding funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Lisa Desjardins and John Yang join Judy Woodruff to discuss what could be at stake in the shutdown showdown.
With Congress back in session, members face an end-of-the-week deadline to keep the government funded.
To dig a little deeper into the shutdown showdown, we are joined by our correspondents who cover Capitol Hill and the White House, Lisa Desjardins and John Yang respectively.
And thank you both for being here in the studio to talk about this complicated stuff that's going on.
Lisa, let me start with you.
What are the major sticking points here when it comes to this showdown talk?
Trump pushes border wall, setting up dispute with Dems, possible government shutdown
There are a few.
At the top of the list is the border wall. The White House says it absolutely wants funding for that border wall. Democrats in Congress say they will not support it. You need at least eight Democrats to pass a funding bill. All the Democrats say that they are against this.
And also Republicans have a problem with the border wall. Judy, there are at least three border state Republicans who say they're skeptical about it. There's other sticking points, too, including miners' benefits. That's something Democrats they are willing to fight for as well, even if it means a delay in funding.
So, John, you have obviously been talking to folks at the White House. What are they looking for? What are they worried about? And do they think they can turn this at attitude in Congress around?
Well, they're confident the showdown is not going to happen. They certainly don't want it to happen on their 100th day in office.
Now, that undercuts their leverage a little bit. And you will notice that they have been very careful about not drawing any lines in the sand. President Trump on Twitter talks about funding for the border wall, but when you talk to administration officials, they refer to it as border security and suggest that it could come in the form of more Immigration Customs Enforcement officers, could be more drones.
It could be anything along the border that would give them the ability to say that this bill reflects their priorities. The president also has been very careful not to say that he wouldn't sign a bill that doesn't include border — money for the border wall.
So, Lisa, if the White House is willing to redefine the wall, turn it into something called border security along the lines of what John described, are Democrats and those Republicans opposed prepared to give?
They say they're considering it. Democrats say they made an offer to Republican leaders yesterday and that they haven't gotten an offer back.
But this is all common. There's going to be a lot of back and forth over the next few days. They're open to that. I think we need to watch this miners' benefit fight. That's something that came up four months ago, the last time we had one of these funding cliffs, and Democrats said at that time they wanted a permanent extension of these health care benefits or else they would delay or stop funding.
And we don't have a solution on that either. These are all things in the mix together.
And — John.
We should also point out the White House is also being careful to say that they are willing to fund Democratic priorities that they don't like, so that they're willing to see some give and take on this.
And John, just quickly, you were saying a minute ago the White House has essentially given up some leverage here by saying at the outset that they don't want a shutdown.
It would be bad optics. The president says this 100-day mark is arbitrary. He calls it ridiculous. But, at the same time, it would look really bad if this happened on the 100th day.
So, this is an ambitious White House we're hearing from right now, John.
They are talking about wanting what we have just been discussing from the budget, but they're also talking about tax reform this week. What are they looking for there?
I don't think you are going to see a lot of details.
It's funny. The president this, that he would announce his tax reform plan on this Wednesday just about — maybe just minutes after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said it wasn't going to come for quite a while.
I don't think you're going to see a lot of details on Wednesday. Secretary Mnuchin, the National Economic Council chairman, Gary Cohn, are going to the Hill tomorrow to talk to Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, the leaders of the tax-writing committees.
On Wednesday, the most you could see is, I think, probably guidelines, broad principles, middle-class tax cut, simplification of the tax code, making business rates competitive, which means cutting them, but probably not much more than that.
And, Lisa, what are folks on the Hill saying about this?
I was standing next to Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, who has been talking to the White House about tax reform for a long time.
And he actually received a call from the White House when I was standing there. He said he hasn't been briefed on this plan yet, on what they're going to say tomorrow. But he says what John is reporting. It will be vague.
We asked, there's reports about a 15 percent corporate tax rate, that the president wants to make that drastic cut. To that, Hatch said, "I don't think he will get away with that." Essentially, that would be too much of a budget buster.
So, that's kind of already from a Trump supporter a problem for him.
This is somebody they'd normally be counting on.
So, just quickly, less than a minute, you mentioned health care a minute ago, John, that the White House is ready to deal on that. Where are they in coming up with a new health care reform plan?
They think that their contribution has been to get the conservative Republicans and the moderate Republicans talking to each other.
They say the vote is up to the Hill, up to the speaker, the majority leader and the whip once they have the votes. They would love for it to happen before the 100 days is up, but they also realize that keeping the government opening and running takes precedence.
What do you hear?
Judy, I woke to a wide spectrum of offices on Capitol Hill. They're not there yet.
Maybe tomorrow night. The Freedom Caucus has an important meeting. They say there's a little bit of optimism among Republicans. But this whole year, Judy, they have been big on aspiration, short on votes.
All right. Well, I know both of you are going to be following it all this week, Lisa Desjardins, John Yang.
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