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Collins confident Senate can reach compromise on immigration

Sen. Susan Collins, one of the lawmakers who helped strike a deal to end the shutdown, says the challenge of overcoming differences doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to reach an immigration bill. Collins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss those prospects, as well as news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, and the GOP casting doubts about the FBI.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With these new revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation coming to light, I spoke a short time ago with a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Susan Collins of Maine.

    She’s also played a key role in building bipartisan agreement which led to resolving the standoff over the government shutdown Monday night.

    We started with what these latest reports on Mueller say about the state of his investigation.

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    It suggests to me that the special counsel’s investigation is proceeding.

    Usually, the lower-level witnesses are interviewed first, and then the special counsel works its way up the chain, if you will, to the most important figures.

    So it suggests to me that perhaps the investigation is nearing a conclusion in terms of the interviews.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, meantime, I have to ask you about what’s going on in the House. House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are calling into question what’s going on at the FBI, casting their objectivity into question, looking — calling for an investigation into missing text messages.

    Are you supportive of what the House Republicans are doing?

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    I don’t think it’s helpful to cast doubt on the investigations that are under way.

    Having said that, I share the concern about the six months of missing text messages between the two FBI employees, which apparently contained political comments in the midst of the investigation that was done into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

    And that’s troubling that all of a sudden six months’ worth of text messages have gone missing. I don’t think that that’s a reason to cast doubt about the entire FBI, but it is sufficient reason for the inspector general to get involved, and it’s my understanding that Inspector General Horowitz has begun an investigation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me turn you now, Senator, to immigration. You were a part of that bipartisan group that helped come up with an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to get the government reopened, to come up with a plan to bring up immigration.

    But here we are, 24 hours later. We’re already hearing the president tweeting that he’s not sure there’s going to be a deal. At the White House today, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was saying the president is going to insist on various things.

    Do you feel whatever deal there might have almost been is already coming apart?

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    No, I really don’t. You know, there’s going to be a meeting tomorrow and a meeting the following day to talk about the specifics of an immigration bill.

    And those are bipartisan meetings. And I believe that what we in the Senate have to do is our job, and our job is to concentrate on producing legislation. We know that we have a crisis as far as the Dreamer population, which is protected under the deferred childhood arrivals program, being at risk of deportation after March 5.

    I know of very few members of the Senate who want to see that happen, because these are young people who were brought to this country through no decision of their own, and they shouldn’t be living in fear.

    We also do need to strengthen border security. We know that there is a flood of drugs, particularly a potent kind of heroin, coming into this country from Mexico. And my state is one of those that’s been afflicted by that crisis.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, but almost everywhere you look, Senator, even if there is some kind of an agreement in the Senate — and we have had now Senator Schumer saying he withdraws the offer to fund the wall that he made to the president last week — but you look at the House.

    You have conservatives putting forward a list of demands today, a large group of conservatives, saying they are not going to go along with any kind of amnesty, that there has to be an end to chain migration. Then you have progressives, people supporting these young DACA immigrants, saying, no, it has to be in the exact opposite direction.

    No matter what the Senate does, this is still going to be very hard to do, isn’t it?

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

     It is.

    I’m not minimizing how difficult the task before us is. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t proceed. And my belief is that if we can come up with a bill in the Senate that gets 60 votes, that it would give momentum for the House to act and for the president to take a very close look at it.

    So that’s my hope. And there are a lot of people who share that goal. Keep in mind that our commonsense coalition, by Monday, just yesterday, had 26 members of both parties who were committed to ending this shutdown and moving ahead on immigration.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Senator, I mean, just very quickly here, this is a tough — this is such a tough issue. On the one hand, you have people saying no amnesty, no path to citizenship under any circumstances, and on the other hand, people saying there must be a path to citizenship. How do you cut that down the middle?

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Well, it seems to me you distinguish between those who knowingly broke the law when they came here and their children, who didn’t knowingly break the law.

    And in one of the bills that have been advanced, the way that the parents who did break the law would be treated is, they wouldn’t be made citizens, but would be allowed to have renewable work permits to stay in this country, but wouldn’t ever be allowed to be citizens.

    That may not be the perfect answer, but there are a lot of different variations, and I think we can make those distinctions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you have got all of 16 days to get it done.

    Senator Susan Collins, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Susan Collins:

    Thank you.

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