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Tamara Keith and Susan Page on the DACA deadline, GOP in-fighting on trade

President Trump’s deadline for action on DACA has passed by without any new legislation enacted to protect undocumented immigrants. Where does the immigration debate go from here? Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page of USA Today join William Brangham to discuss how Congress has failed to act on the fate of “Dreamers,” and the tension between the president and GOP leaders over proposed tariffs.

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  • William Brangham:

    In addition to these protests over immigration, it was another wild day in Washington.

    Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said he will resign on April 1 because of poor health. The 80-year-old Republican chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee.

    And a former Trump campaign aide announced he will defy a subpoena from the special counsel in the Russia probe. Sam Nunberg left the campaign in its early days. Today, he rejected any suggestion that the Trump team colluded with Russia. But he also said he thinks the special prosecutor may have evidence against the president.

    It's a perfect time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today.

    Welcome to you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Thank you.

  • William Brangham:

    So we can all agree it really was a wild day, officially.

    But let's go back to DACA.

    Lisa set up, very nicely, Tam, I think, how we got to this point. Where do we go from here? There is so much grassroots effort and enthusiasm to get this solved. And I would point out this was also — there was some bipartisan agreement at one point that DACA should be addressed. How do we go from here?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, President Trump today tweeted, hey, let's make a deal.

    But the White House is also saying that the president has laid out his four principles, the things he wants. What happened is that the president had met with bipartisan members of Congress. He said send me with whatever you can come up with, I will sign it. Then, next thing you know, he is saying, actually, I have these four principles, I need these four things, and without these four things, I won't do it.

    The Senate voted on the president's principles, and of all the things the Senate voted on a few weeks ago related to immigration, that got the least support. It had something like 39 yes votes. It had a majority who opposed it, and that included Republicans.

    So it's not clear where it goes from here. And without that really firm, pressing deadline, Congress just doesn't move quickly.

  • William Brangham:

    Susan, you were saying before that, when it comes to immigration, we have seen this movie before.

  • Susan Page:

    That's right.

    We saw President George W. Bush pursue an immigration package, and then President Obama did, and then President Trump said he wanted to pursue one. But the fact is, when the Senate was moving toward a bipartisan deal, the president undercut that movement by tying new limits on legal immigration to the effort to protect the so-called dreamers.

    The fact is there is a national consensus that the dreamers should be allowed to stay legally in this country. There's no political consensus in Washington. The country's made a judgment on this. In that way, it's like the guns debate. You take a poll, Americans agree on this by a pretty sizable number. It's just that Washington can't seem to make a deal.

  • William Brangham:

    Well, take up this point, Tam, that Susan mentions.

    On the issue of guns, we saw the president last week following the Parkland shootings say — he brought a bunch of bipartisan group of lawmakers together, indicated that he wanted to have a big, omnibus, comprehensive gun control piece of legislation, harden schools.

    And then he meets with the NRA and it seems like now in the Senate and Congress that nothing is going to happen. What happened to that momentum?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think that what we have learned is that when President Trump has a big bipartisan meeting of members of Congress that's televised, it's like throwing spaghetti against a wall and whatever the president says isn't necessarily what the president believes or, more to the point, what the president is going to push for.

    And the president has shown with both of those — in both those cases that he's not actually willing to expend political capital to make the deal.

  • Susan Page:

    It's always safe to vote against action, especially when it comes to limits on guns.

    The one thing that might shake up this paralysis are the marches that students are leading on March 24. And the question we have had is, is this a moment that terrifies politicians enough that they actually pass something that Americans support?

    I mean, support for things like universal background checks or limits on assault weapons, they are all but universal in this country. A majority by big margins of gun owners support them.

    So I wonder if these very articulate students with their heartbreaking stories about what happened at their schools might move this debate at last.

  • William Brangham:

    We will obviously be watching how that one goes.

    Tam, we also saw today a cleavage within the GOP itself over President Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. He came out very forcefully and has been for several days now tweeting very strongly why he thinks that this is important to do.

    But within his own GOP all the way up to Paul Ryan saying, no, trade wars are bad ideas. They don't get won. Don't do this.

    How do they resolve that?

  • Tamara Keith:

    President Trump has found a way to drive a wedge within his own party, which is a relatively impressive thing to do.

    All along, he's been sort of governing — he talks like a populist and he has been governing like sort of an establishment Republican. Here's a case where he has been literally saying the same things about trade and America getting a bad deal for, like, 30 years, that you know, guns, immigration, taxes.

    There's nothing that he believes more fundamentally in his core that he has been more consistent on than this trade issue. And now, all of a sudden, he's being told by members of his own party and members of his own administration, no, this is not a great idea, you can't do this. The president clearly doesn't want to hear that.

  • William Brangham:

    Susan, we have a couple of these little elections that are coming up. We have got Texas, we have got Illinois, we have got Pennsylvania, all possibly different little barometers of how the president is doing, how much his message is resonating or is being used to support Democrats.

    Democrats think they are riding an enormous blue wave. What does your reporting tell you?

  • Susan Page:

    There are red flags for Republicans everywhere, and I don't mean because it looks so good for the Republican Party. I mean signs of trouble.

    You look at this Pennsylvania special House election, which is next week, it's a district that President Trump carried by 19 percentage points. It is really tied up now. It's entirely possible that the Democrat will win.

    You look at Texas, which has its primary tomorrow. And they have concluded early voting. If you look at the early voting, the early voting by Republicans is up by 11 percent. Early voting by Democrats is up 24 percent. And that is a sign of energy and enthusiasm among Democrats, even in a state like Texas, which has not elected a Democrat statewide in almost a quarter of a century.

  • William Brangham:

    Lastly, quickly to you, do you think there is a blue wave coming?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, just another sign of that enthusiasm, Democrats in Texas have fielded candidates in every single congressional district.

  • William Brangham:

    In Texas.

  • Tamara Keith:

    This is the first time that has happened in 25 years.

    Democrats — and this is happening not just in Texas, but all the over the country, that in districts where Democrats typically haven't even tried to play, they are now playing.

    So if there is a wave, and it's more like a tsunami, all of a sudden, we're going to be learning about Democrats we didn't even know existed.

  • William Brangham:

    Tamara Keith, Susan Page, thank you both very much.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Thank you.

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