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Republicans say there won’t be a DACA vote this week. How will Democrats respond?

The clock is ticking as lawmakers labor to find a way to keep the federal government running, hitting up against demands for more defense spending and a fix for the expiring DACA program. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss where negotiations stand and what the White House wants.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The clock is ticking tonight, and it is again unclear if Congress will find a way to keep the federal government running past a coming deadline, in this case Friday night.

    Lawmakers labored today to deal with demands for more defense spending and an immigration fix.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Last week, it seemed a deal on immigration was inches away.

  • President Donald Trump:

    What I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, today, immigration was anything but simple, and seemed overwhelmed by a swirl of deadlines and conflicting plans to avert a government shutdown coming in just 48 hours.

    One plan from House Republicans, a continuing resolution, or C.R., that would keep the government funded through mid-February. The deal would also fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years and delay some Obamacare taxes.

    But, in the House, the conservative Freedom Caucus is threatening to vote against that C.R. unless they get more military funding, this as Democrats and immigration groups are demanding a fix for the expiring DACA program for people brought here illegally as children. But the Republican C.R. doesn’t have a fix for DACA.

    Some Democrats, like Michelle Lujan Grisham, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, say either there’s a DACA fix now, or Democrats will not pass a spending bill.

  • Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham:

    We have until Friday. That is our opinion. I think that’s an opinion that’s not just from Democrats, that this is bipartisan, bicameral, that we want this resolved, that we can no longer wait.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan slammed Democrats.

  • Rep. Paul Ryan:

    Real deadlines are occurring this Friday. It is unconscionable to me that they would block funding for our military or cut off funding for these states that really will lose their funding for CHIP by playing these political games and tying them to unrelated issues.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, Senate Republicans said there will not be a vote on DACA this week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there is one key player in this.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell:

    I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign.

    As soon as we figure out what he’s for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels going to this issue on the floor, but actually dealing with a bill that has a chance to become law and therefore solve the problem.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meantime, Democratic Senators like Dick Durbin, the author of a key DACA bill, insisted so-called dreamers need a deal now.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin:

    It is time for them to include it in any C.R. deal that is brought before us at this time. We cannot postpone any longer this protection for hundreds of thousands of innocent people across America who are simply asking, as dreamers, for a chance to be a part of America’s future.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, where do DACA deals stand? Let’s clear up the blur. There are three key efforts. The bipartisan Senate gang of six, which includes a path to citizenship for dreamers, but was rejected by the White House last week.

    And the bipartisan House bill from representatives Will Hurd and Pete Aguilar, which also has a citizenship path, but is more narrow. And the so-called number twos group, the second highest-ranking Republicans and Democrats in each chamber, that is the group now most closely working with the White House, but no clear deal from them yet.

    As for the White House, Chief of Staff John Kelly was on the Hill all day, negotiating on both immigration and a possible shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa is joining us now for more on this government shutdown. And joining her — potential government shutdown.

    And joining her in the studio, we are so pleased to welcome Yamiche Alcindor, our newest member of the NewsHour team. She comes to us as our White House correspondent, joining us from The New York Times.

    Yamiche, welcome.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It’s great to have you here.

    So, Lisa, I’m going to go back to you, though, on picking up where you left off in that setup story. Where are we exactly on the potential for a government shutdown, from the Hill perspective?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    Well, the House Republican continuing resolution is headed toward a vote likely tomorrow. And it seems probable that it will pass. The Freedom Caucus doe want more in it for defense. But, to be honest, talking to those Freedom Caucus members behind the scenes, I think they will get on board. I think that will pass the House.

    The question then, Judy, probably the only question for a shutdown, is if it can get 60 votes in the Senate, which means, without John McCain in the Senate — he’s absent this week for health reasons — they would need 10 Democrats.

    Talking to moderate Democrats, there are certainly multiple ones who say they are a yes. But are there 10? It’s not clear. And that’s a real question we’re going to have to answer in the next day. It could be close.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Could be close.

    So, Yamiche, we heard Mitch McConnell saying, we don’t know where the president stands on this.

    What is the White House position on immigration right now?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the chief of staff met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today, and essentially what he said was that the deal that Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham worked out is not going far enough, and that they essentially need to be more inclusive.

    But the people that he wants to be included are really hard-line immigration stance people like Tom Cotton and others — and Goodlatte and others, who essentially want a lot more than what the Democrats are offering.

    So, essentially, John Kelly is also someone who has a real background in increasing deportations at DHS. He’s not someone — even though he’s seen a lot of times as the adult in the room or someone who might somehow soften Donald Trump, he’s actually someone who did a lot of things at the DHS that essentially really made Donald Trump happy.

    So, to have him meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the people that I talked to said really worried a lot of people. And people are essentially not feeling good about whether or not there can be a deal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Lisa, we know the White House hasn’t signed on to anything yet. Democrats say they want something this week. What is the story on DACA?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    Well, I think we know sort of the endgame this week from the Republican perspective. Adding to what Yamiche was saying, Senator John Cornyn, the number two in the Senate, told me there will not be a vote on DACA this week. That’s full stop.

    He and Senator McConnell are in charge of those votes. So, there won’t be a vote this week. Now, Democrats then have to make a decision, do they kind of swallow this C.R., or do they try and shut down government to force a vote?

    And, again, that’s where you get in the question. I think the moderates would probably vote for the C.R. For DACA, I think what this means, Judy, is a solution is probably, if there is one, still weeks away.

    This would push the solution into February. That February 16 spending deadline, that becomes the big date for the dreamers and DACA. And I think, because it’s closer to the March DACA deadline, Democrats feel they have maybe more momentum.

    But I want to stress, what is happening now is this group of number twos, with John Kelly, John Cornyn, all those kind of seconds in command, but what’s interesting, even as the White House says it want more conservatives in the mix, that group is still five white men.

    There’s one woman, the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who joined them today. But even as the White House wants to expand, there are some questions about whether all the stakeholders are in that room.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And there is also this, I guess you could say, contradiction, Yamiche, because on the one hand, we have now hearing the president say he wants to be compassionate toward these younger immigrants who came to this country with their parents without documentation.

    But, on the other hand, he is taking a hard line in the last few days.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the back and forth is really what Donald Trump’s personality is about.

    There’s this idea that he really is the most — the person who spoke to him last is the person who essentially has the most influence for at least — even if it’s a fleeting influence, it’s at the moment.

    So, on one hand, you have President Trump who’s seeing dreamers protest, who’s seeing dreamers get arrested, who really feels compassionate as a human being to really do something for these young immigrants. They’re people who obviously came to this country through no fault of their own, so he doesn’t see them as criminals.

    On the other hand, you have someone who ran a campaign which, at its core, was essentially built on anti-immigration policies. So you have someone who promised millions of people who voted for him that he was going to go in, he was going to essentially take a hard line on immigration.

    And now he’s looking at the people surrounding him, talking about Steve Miller, other people like Tom Cotton, people that are his allies that are saying, you have to really keep your promise.

    So, that’s why I think you see this back and forth. And in these meetings, essentially, you see him going back and forth. Lindsey Graham said, where is the Donald Trump that I golfed with and said that he loved dreamers?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much still unclear.

    Yamiche Alcindor, again, welcome.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You’re welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will discuss all of this with Senator Dick Durbin, who was in that now much discussed Oval Office meeting, after the news summary.

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