What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

What’s dividing lawmakers on DACA and threatening a shutdown

President Trump's reported remarks at a White House meeting last week continue to dominate in the days before a looming government funding deadline. As senators grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on a specific profanity and President Trump was pressed on a different detail, Congress and the White House try to reassemble talks over DACA. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Washington tonight, there is no sign of an agreement on immigration reform or on a government spending deal to beat a looming deadline.

    Instead, much of the focus remains on what President Trump said and did at a White House meeting last week.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Sen. Charles Grassley:

    Do you affirm that the testimony you're about to give before the committee…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Under oath, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen again pushed back at charges that the president ever uttered a specific profanity to describe Haiti and African countries.

  • Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen:

    I didn't hear that word used, no, sir.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But she didn't answer directly if he might have said something similar, instead saying there was strong and impassioned language.

    Democrat Dick Durbin, who was also in last week's meeting, pressed her.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin:

    What was that strong language?

  • Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen:

    Ah, let's see. Strong language. There was — apologies, I don't remember a specific word. What I was struck with, frankly, and I'm sure you were as well, was just the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin:

    Did you hear me use profanity?

  • Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen:

    No, sir. Neither did I.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker fired back, questioning Nielsen's honesty.

  • Sen. Cory Booker:

    The commander in chief, in an Oval Office meeting, referring to people from African countries and Haitians with the most vile and vulgar language. That language festers. When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power, it is a dangerous force in the country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    President Trump himself today was meeting with the Kazakh president, but was pressed on a different detail from last week's meeting.

  • Question:

    Mr. President, did you say that you want more people to come in from Norway? Did you say that you wanted more people to come in from Norway? Is that true, Mr. President?

  • President Donald Trump:

    I want them to come in from everywhere. Everywhere.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This as Congress and the White House try to reassemble talks over DACA recipients, people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

    As part of that, North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis defended the president's push for more border security.

  • Sen. Thom Tillis:

    I, for one, think that we have to have a balanced proposal, a compromise that solves and addresses the DACA problem in a compassionate and sustainable way. But we also have to understand we need to be compassionate in terms of the threat to our community and to our homeland by not securing the border.

    And you can only do that when people lower the temperatures and recognize that securing the border is an absolutely appropriate request as we're solving the DACA problem.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And this immigration battle has direct connections to the latest government spending showdown. Congress must pass another funding bill by the end of the week, or government will shut down.

    Issue one, the Senate, where a spending bill will likely need 60 votes, meaning some Democratic votes. But Democrats say, first, they need a deal on DACA in the spending bill.

    Issue two, the House. Without any Democrats to pass the spending bill there, Republicans would have to get the 218 votes they need from their members only. And many Republicans have said they don't want to vote for any more short-term spending bills.

    Outside the hearing room, a key character in all of this, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, spoke to reporters. He insisted that the president was on board a DACA deal last Tuesday and at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, but changed two hours later.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham:

    Yes, I think somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice from 10:00 to 12:00 on Thursday.

    I think the president I saw on Tuesday is the guy I play golf with. I actually like the guy. He's actually funny. I thought he commanded the room. And the conversation at 10:00 on Thursday was pretty consistent with the guy I saw Tuesday.

    But here is what's going to matter. How does it end? How does it end? Does it end with the government shutting down? We should all be kicked out if that happens.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Add to the political storm, rolling protests from DACA recipients and others erupted on Capitol Hill today, with police and other sources expecting those to only grow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now.

    Lisa, what a day. You were up on the Capitol all day.

    So, where do things stand right now in the Senate efforts to work with the White House?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All right.

    So, Senator Dick Durbin told me that he will unveil legislative text of this kind of gang of six bipartisan bill tomorrow. Senator Graham, his partner in those talks, told me he trying to woo Republicans and that he is open to try and toughen it, maybe with some kind of guarantees of how they could deport felons, for example.

    He's thinking about that. Now, will this all lead to a shutdown? Will Democrats withhold their votes in the Senate if they don't get a DACA deal? One senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, told me if they think there is progress, maybe then they could support a funding bill, but right now they don't see that progress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you're telling me, Lisa, what you're picking up is that things seem to be moving in a more conservative direction in all of this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    And I think that's because of what the president said last week and its effect on the House. The president's remarks were essentially a boulder to a very fragile compromise trying to be built on the House side.

    Now, instead of them talking about this kind of Durbin-Graham compromise, what I heard from a House source today, someone who is generally pretty moderate, they said that work is — that deal is not possible because they said a DACA path to citizenship is something they won't accept.

    That used to be middle ground. So, if that, in fact, is really where the lines have changed, the two sides are very far part. Now, also, Marc Short from the White House met with House Republican number two, Kevin McCarthy, today. That's the White House signaling, hey, we're working with the House.

    They're not reaching out to the Senate. So, we see that divide right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And on the spending bill, you're hearing House Republicans thinking of adding something to that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    So, if the DACA impasse is too great, and they have a real problem there, how do they pass a spending bill? House Republicans tonight will talk to their conference about adding a six-year extension of the CHIP, Children's Health Insurance Program. That's something many people want.

    And also, listen to this, Judy, a five-year repeal of the medical device tax. That's something that Republicans have disliked for many years. It was part of the Affordable Care Act. They may add that as a sort of sweetener to pass a short-term funding bill.

    But can any of this work? It's unclear. Tonight, I think, Judy, we're actually closer to a government shutdown. But it's Tuesday. And I think that, honestly, if you read how these things work, really, it's Wednesday and Thursday that matter the most.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Things are changing almost hourly.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, they are. That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thanks very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

Listen to this Segment