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Trump immigration plan hits ‘sweet spot’ with opposition on both sides, says Sen. Perdue

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., says he thinks America will see an upbeat and optimistic President Trump when he addresses the nation in his first State of the Union address. Perdue joins Judy Woodruff to offer insight into the president’s agenda, including overhauling immigration, investing in infrastructure, plus a State Department announcement that the U.S. will not impose Russian sanctions.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we learn more about President Trump's speech, and his plan to strike a bipartisan tone, I spoke with one of his closest allies in congress, Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia.

    And I started by asking, what will be the president's main message tonight?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    Judy, I think we're going to see an upbeat and optimistic president tonight, like we saw in Davos last week, where he sent the world a message that America was open for business again and that America first did not necessarily mean America alone.

    So, I think he's going to lay out his agenda from last year and the results that we are seeing, but also very carefully lay out and articulate his priorities for 2018.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We know that he's going to talk about immigration, among other things.

    You have said that the president's proposal hits, I think you used the words, a sweet spot, that it's a middle ground. But, as you know, the critics on the left say that it's too harsh in breaking families apart, that it spends to much on a border wall.

    Then you have critics on the right saying that it is too — that it is unacceptable to give undocumented young immigrants a path to citizenship.

    How do you bring these two sides together?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    What the president did, Judy, was lay out a framework for our conversation here in Congress to finally, once and for all, deal with the DACA situation, but make sure that we eliminate the causes of the situation in the first place.

    And that is that we have to deal with what created this chain or the family immigration system that we had since 1965. Actually, Tom Cotton and I put a bill in a year ago — it's hard to believe it's been that long, but a year ago — to actually move us toward what Bill Clinton wanted and Barbara Jordan back in the '90s.

    And that is move us more toward a merit-based immigration system that protected the immediate family, and this system is more like what Canada and Australia have been doing for decades.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you think the two sides are going to come together? Because, right now, they seem pretty implacably opposed.

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    I think any time you have two parties like this opposing it the way that they have been on the president's framework, it tells me that the president did hit that sweet spot that I was talking about.

    And we're going to find out, on both sides, Judy, who is serious about solving this problem once and for all. Eighty percent of America wants a secure border and a wall in places where it's necessary. Two-thirds of America wants to solve the DACA problem, but only if you end chain migration and diversity lottery and protect the immediate worker's family, at the same time providing for border security.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, we're told the president is also going to talk about the need for infrastructure-building. He's going to call for a mix of government and private capital to come together to repair roads and bridges and so forth.

    But we know that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, other Democrats are saying to rely on private developers is going to leave out large chunks of the country, that it's going to lead to tolls and taxes in different local jurisdictions. It's going to lead to private developers having too much say over infrastructure.

    How do you respond?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    The truth of the matter is, Judy, with our debt, we have lost that option, frankly.

    The only way Chuck Schumer is going to get that financing done that way is more taxes. And we know what that does to the economy. We have got examples right now, like Power Africa, where our U.S. Department of State invested $8 billion and attracted $48 billion, and is going to bring power to Africa over the next decade in a public-private partnership.

    We have the same opportunities in the United States. What the president is going to do tonight, I believe, is lay out his priorities, which will be focused on investments that will yield returns by growing the economy. And in so doing, I think we will find a way to pay for it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, different subject, and that is Russia.

    We know that last night the State Department announced that it is not going to impose sanctions on Russia that Congress overwhelmingly passed in mid-2017. They say the legislation itself is enough of a deterrent.

    What's your view of that?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    Well, I think we have got to be very serious with not only Russia, but North Korea, Iran, and other nefarious actors around the world today.

    The world is more dangerous than any time in my lifetime anyway, and at the same time, we have got to rebuild our military. We're going to hear that tonight.

    Specifically, with regard to Russia, they need to know we're serious about messing with our election process. This is a democracy. And that won't be tolerated. And Republicans and Democrats are aligned on that. I'm anxious to get these Intelligence Committees' reports done, though.

    I think we need to get past this, get this, an independent investigation, over and done with. We have been doing this almost a year now. So, it's time to get these results in and tell the American people where we are and build a defense against that next activity.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, are you all right with their not imposing the sanctions now on Russia?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    I voted for these sanctions. I think they should be employed. But I think it's part of a bigger picture.

    I'm willing to give the secretary of state and the president some latitude on this, Judy, only because it's part of a bigger equation with North Korea and China particularly right now. But also we're looking at the Iran nuclear deal to see how to hold that coalition together.

    There's no question that we need more serious sanctions against Iran, and also North Korea, and I believe against Russia, if they don't help us with North Korea.

    So the calculus here is, I believe, is Russia going to help us with North Korea? Are they going to respond to this act by the president? And we will see very, very quickly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, Senator, I want to ask you about your constituents in Georgia.

    The Gallup Organization came out with a poll. They have looked at all 50 states at the support for the president over the past year on average. And in the state of Georgia, which you represent, they said, on average, 41 percent of the people approve of the president's performance, 53 percent disapprove.

    How do you explain that?

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    You know, that same poll had me losing by almost nine points, Judy. I think I won by over eight points.

    I don't put a lot of credit in that, because this president doesn't fit the mold of the traditional Washington established president. He's an outsider. He's a business guy. I'm not worried about popularity polls. I'm worried about results, like he is.

    And right now his agenda is providing results. The work that we did on regulation last year, the work we did on energy and taxes is producing results; 2.5 million new jobs were created last year. That is not lost on people in my state and across the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're going to leave it there, and we are certainly all going to be watching the president.

    Senator David Perdue of Georgia, thank you.

  • Sen. David Perdue:

    Thanks, Judy.

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