Return to Transcripts main page


Senate to Vote on Plan to Reopen Government; Trump Calls for Nuclear Option to End Shutdown. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 22, 2018 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody wants our soldiers not to be paid.

[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both sides do it. I think the American people see through it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. The one and only Poppy Harlow here.


CUOMO: Thank you very much.

Two for the price of one.

We are now in day three of the federal government shutdown. In just hours, the Senate will have a procedural vote on a plan to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks.

But we've got trouble, my friends. There are deep divisions over the fate of DREAMers, failing to produce any compromise or really any details. What are the sticking points? What do the sides not agree on?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is willing to start debating immigration if there is no agreement by February 8. Why the delay? Why the resistance of putting this in the spending bill?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants a firmer commitment. But he, too, has not been open about what the sticking points are.

HARLOW: So where, in the middle of all this, has the deal maker in chief been? President Trump very much on the sidelines during these heated negotiations. He is calling on McConnell to trigger the nuclear option if the stalemate continues. That's not going to happen.

The blame game, though, on full display. Both parties accusing the other of politicizing the shutdown. We have it all covered.

Let's go to our Suzanne Malveaux. She joins us live this morning on Capitol Hill for more. OK, 7:01 a.m. Any progress? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No progress yet, Poppy. Sorry,

we're going to have to be more patient than that. There are hundreds of thousands of federal workers this morning who are being furloughed, told not to come to work. Their paychecks delayed.

In the meantime, there are lawmakers who will return to work here later. This morning, over the weekend, a group of bipartisan senators were trying to come up with at least a short-term deal to fund and restart the government. A 1 o'clock, 1 a.m. vote was scheduled but scrapped when they realized they did not have the votes.


MCCONNELL (voice-over): Well, let's step back from the brink. Let's start victimizing the American people and get back to work on their behalf.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The government shutdown entering day three, after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected a proposal that would fund the government for three weeks in exchange for a commitment from the GOP leadership to take up a separate future vote on immigration and the DREAMers.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We've had several conversations. Talks will continue, but we have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable for both sides.

MALVEAUX: A top Democratic aide tells CNN that Schumer did not think the majority leader gave a firm enough commitment to bring the immigration proposal to a vote, pointing to McConnell's vague language.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It would be my intention to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. It would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security, and related issues.

MALVEAUX: Majority Whip John Cornyn says that he's optimistic the Senate will vote today to break the impasse, adding that Schumer sought to push back the vote to give his caucus a chance to chew on the GOP proposal.

But a top Democratic leadership aide disputes this claim, telling CNN they expect Monday's vote will fall short of the 60 votes needed to reopen the government.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There's enough blame to go around. I hope that we can move from that and just find a way to open the government back up.

MALVEAUX: Republican senators Flake and Graham, who both voted against a continuing resolution Friday, announced Sunday they will now vote in favor of the three-week proposal, meaning that Republicans need seven more senators to get on board. One senior GOP aide says Republican leaders think they have a shot of picking off enough Democrats to move forward. Five red-state Democrats who voted against shutting down the government Friday joined with a bipartisan group of moderate lawmakers who worked furiously over the weekend negotiating the compromise deal.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We recognize that, ultimately, it is the decision of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer as to how to proceed. And we're not trying to preempt that, but we are trying to be helpful in showing them that there is a path forward.

MALVEAUX: Senator Graham pointing fingers at the White House over the impasse.

GRAHAM: The White House staff has been pretty unreliable. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we're going nowhere. He's been an outlier for years.


MALVEAUX: Deputy White House press secretary answering that charge, attacking Graham, saying that as long as Graham is on the side of those in the country illegally instead of U.S. citizens, that they are going nowhere when it comes to negotiations. In about three hours or so the Senate will gavel back to session, and that bipartisan group, again, will huddle to see if they can make any progress before that noon vote -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Part of the problem is, Suzanne, we don't know what the sticking points are. Thank you for the reporting.

[07:05:04] The Trump administration is escalating the blame game. That's the easy thing to do, right, play politics here. But they're refusing to discuss a DREAMers deal until Democrats agree to end the shutdown.

CUOMO: Now, you see how pointless that is, right? Because the Democrats are holding firm on the shutdown, because they want to negotiate the DREAMer deal. So the president is urging Republican senators to pull the trigger on the nuclear option to get a spending bill passed.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House. Controversial enough that even the Republicans don't like the idea.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Chris. Something that has been roundly rejected by Republican leadership.

But the main question today is where has the president been in all of this? Because as you know, during the campaign, he fashioned himself as this deal maker in chief.

But he has been largely absent and keeping a low profile over the weekend as these negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over on Capitol Hill were ongoing.

But his aides were out in full force over the weekend, blaming this shutdown, squarely putting that blame on the shoulders of Democrats. And that blame even trickled down to the White House comment line. And this is the message that people were getting when they phoned in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today, because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down.


COLLINS: Now there's that message. But the question is what has the president been doing to break up the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans?

Because Chris and Poppy, he has not appeared in public since the government shutdown. He has not -- he's only tweeted -- his main message on Twitter has been to call to an end to that Senate filibuster, something that has been roundly rejected by Republican leadership. And he has not made any public remarks.

Now, the only thing on his schedule today is an intelligence briefing that will be behind closed doors. So many people are wondering if the president will spend his third day of this shutdown, much like he did the weekend, making calls, watching television, and tweeting.

CUOMO: In the last 10 hours, Kaitlan, the only thing he's tweeted about was thanking people for saying he's done a great job. It is unusual for the party in power, when they have their president in the White House, party-wise, that they are happy with less involvement.

All right. Let's discuss. We have CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory.

One thing seems to be sure to me, but please check me against your own sourcing and reporting, is that this is not a negotiation about what the bill of love will look like, David. When they're talking about the DREAMers, it seems pretty clear, based on the Republicans and Democrats I've spoken to, that the Republicans are resistant to any notion that DREAMers become citizens. That they're haggling over, can they pay into Social Security? Well, do they even get it if they do pay it? Should there ever be a path to citizenship? Are they permanent workers?

So this isn't bill of love, make them Americans in some way. And that is something people should know.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And we should also remember our recent history in the immigration fight in Washington. That a path to citizenship is often where these deals have been derailed and where the idea of comprehensive reform has been derailed.

It's not just that. It's not the only sticking point. There's the wall. There's this issue of the lottery, of chain migration. These are all wrapped together. And the president may be one place and willing to deal, and he's got hardline staff who's not there. Or maybe he likes that as a buffer to hold all of this up.

But the pressure points here, you've got polling that indicates that while a majority of Americans want these DREAMers to stay in the U.S. They want the government to reopen. And that's more important, according to our polling.

So Democrats who think they're holding firm and they're holding onto the base, you've got to look at those red-state Democrats who don't want to shut the government down and want to decouple these issues. You've got to look for later this morning to see whether there's something to the fact that McConnell is saying we're going to get to this issue. Just open the government back up.

And this is important too, will he say, look, we in Congress can -- can debate this and legislate it. We can find our own compromise on the issue of the DREAMers and immigration, regardless of where the White House is. I'm not going to wait to find out what the White House will support. And we'll just move forward. That's something Democrats might be able to accept.

HARLOW: Which is a concession for McConnell. The wall funding, the appropriation of money from Schumer, you know, agreeing to 20 billion for the wall on that side.

But John Avlon, the question becomes, as David Gregory right brings up, trust. Do you trust Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader -- this is not asking you, do you trust, although feel free to answer that -- but do enough Democrats trust Mitch McConnell when he says, "It is my intention, if the government stays open, in the recent past, that we will figure out this DACA issue"?

[07:10:02] JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The word "intention" is legal language. And McConnell is a man who prides himself on being someone of his word, but the words are chosen carefully. And "intention" is Washington weasel words. It's not a commitment to do it. I think McConnell's going to need to move further with assurance.

There's also the question of, when was the last, you know, Gang of Eight deal was done by Lindsey Graham in a heroic effort under the late Obama presidency, the House blocked immigration reform. So how does that work in all of this? The devil is in the details. We all get that.

But in principal, there's been an agreement to fund border security and the border wall. It's -- the principal of dealing with the DREAMers and DACA. And then you can make some, you know, adjustment to chain migration, family reunification. Maybe siblings are no longer included.

There's the outline of a grand bargain. Does the president want to make a deal? Does he want to live up to his promise? Does he want to pull a Nixon in China? Or is he content to simply stay on at home and tweet and watch TV? Because there's 300 million Americans who can do that, but there's only one president. So he's got to follow through on his rhetoric during the last shutdown of 2013 and get everyone in a room, or Congress needs to say, "This guy is an unreliable narrator, and we're going to do it ourselves."

GREGORY: Well, and that's the issue, right? Because he had people in a room, both like he was in control. He talked about a bill of love and said, "I'll take the heat. And now, all of a sudden, you know, he's slinking off to Davos to speak at the World Economic Forum." So before he goes, does he have the juice within the White House to make a deal?

He prides himself on being the big deal maker. I think the idea, and the more stories that are out there about him being held at arm's length by his staff has got to be driving him nuts. You know, that's where I'd look for a breakthrough, as well.

CUOMO: But you can see why -- forget about all the politics of personality and how he comports himself. You can see there are a couple of reasons why the Republicans would be keeping him on the outside. One is he had been suggested, David and John, that he was open to the DREAMers becoming citizens.

AVLON: Right. Very much so.

CUOMO: And that seems to be a hard line in the negotiation right now. Or that yes, they can stay, but they're not going to be Americans. They're never going to be American citizens. That seems to be a big bickering point.

And then the other reason to keep him sideways is he can hurt you in these places where his base is strong. And they're worried about that. They're worried about him attacking them for what they're able to achieve. So I get why they're boxing him out. I don't get why he's allowing himself to be boxed out. What's your take on that?

GREGORY: Yes. I mean, I'm surprised by that, too. Because I think that he wanted to get back up to the front of the line here. And either he doesn't understand the issue well enough, or he's got serious enough disagreement or he's -- you know, I think that the role of John Kelly as chief of staff is really important here. Where he's saying to him, "Look, Mr. President, you've got to remember, you care about 'X,' 'Y,' and 'Z.' You may want to compromise on 'X,' but you can't forget all of that together. Let's hold out."

The more we hold out -- by the way, the more there's a split between the president and his hardline staff, maybe he gets a better deal in the end.

HARLOW: What...

GREGORY: Democrats are already moving on this idea of giving more wall funding in order to take care of the DREAMers.

HARLOW: What are the optics, John Avlon, of the president giving the State of the Union address -- let's assume that this doesn't get sorted. But giving the State of the Union address with the government potentially still shut down. A president who, you know, four years ago said during the 2013 shutdown, "Look, Obama has to get on this. This is him. It all comes up to him."

CUOMO: He also said we should shut down just a few months ago.

HARLOW: That last day, yes.

AVLON: The president -- the president has been everywhere on every issue, and there's a Trump tweet for everything. But what he said during the 2013, what everyone in the current negotiations said in 2013 is all being exposed to situational ethics. Totally transparent.

CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: God forbid the shutdown goes -- the last one went 13 days -- to the State of the Union. Because that would be basically hanging the lantern on the incompetence of Washington in the absence of leadership right now.

CUOMO: And what he would do most likely is crush the Democrats for it, which would harden their resolve on on this issue where they believe that they're right. However, we do have this recent polling saying that people are very sympathetic to DREAMers. Over 80 percent want you to find a solution where they stay. But look at this number. People don't see these as conjoined issues. Keep the government open and do DACA.

Right now, Democrats are playing against that. We'll have to see how they can explain themselves. There's been a lot of focus on the process, not enough on the actual positions that are being taken in these meetings. We'll push for that today. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

Countdown to a critical vote. Will they vote today at noon to reopen the government? Will more Democrats support the GOP plan to make that happen? Can they do that and maintain leverage to help the DREAMers? Tough questions. We've got someone to answer them next.


[07:18:42] CUOMO: All right. We're less than five hours away from a procedural vote to reopen the government and fund it for three more weeks. It certainly isn't ideal, but it's all that's on the table right now.

We have two Democratic sources telling CNN they expect the vote to fall short, saying they're not confident McConnell will follow on his pledge to start debating immigration legislation if there is no agreement by February 8.

Let's talk to somebody who's actually a player in this situation. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Senator, thank you.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: It's good to be with you. Thank you.

CUOMO: So do we have it right? Does it look like this vote will not get Democratic support today?

CARDIN: Well, I'm sure there are some discussions taking place right now between Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer. We'll see how those discussions go. There's a lot of bipartisan discussions that are taking place.

The challenge is as Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan delegated this to the president, can the president, can he get to yes? We'll see whether he can. Our goal is to make sure that we have a budget for our country, a fair budget for our country that we take up issues that are critically important and have a pathway to get them resolved.

If we can do that, I am hopeful that we can see an agreement. Democrats want to keep government open. We've tried. We've had unanimous consent requests that have been rejected by the Republicans. We want to make sure everyone gets paid. We've tried that also. So, you know, we want to keep government open. But we have to have a budget. We're four months into the fiscal year. I t's time for a budget.

CUOMO: So the Democrats say, like you, that you want to keep it open. But you are the reason that it has not been kept open, because you hold the votes that would be needed to keep it open.

CARDIN: Well, of course, you do play it any way you want to. But for Democrats and Republicans, Democrats want government to stay open. We've had unanimous consent requests. The government will remain open. It's critically important that we have a budget.

You've got to draw a line at some point. You can't operate with continuing resolutions. We've heard that from the Department of Defense. We've heard that from the other agencies. We've been four weeks kicking this down -- can down the road. It's not helping anyone.

CUOMO: Right. I hear you on that.

CARDIN: Both Republicans and Democrats are saying that.

CUOMO: Both sides say the same thing. The difference winds up being on why it hasn't kept open and what the sticking points are. And we're not -- we're only hearing about the process. We're only hearing generalities. So I want to drill down with me on that.

Give me one quick insight. Why did the Republicans not accept the provision to vote on keeping the military getting paid during any shutdown?

CARDIN: I can't answer that. You have to ask them that question.

CUOMO: Well, what are you hearing? What are they saying to you about why that's not acceptable?

CARDIN: I think what you're seeing from both sides is that they don't want to deal with piecemeal issues. They want to get this issue resolved. The Republicans will have to answer their own questions, because quite frankly, the military and the nonmilitary shouldn't be pawns in this -- the fight. I offer the unanimous consent that all of our federal workers get paid. We shouldn't be making them the pawns for this.

CUOMO: If everyone gets paid, then you don't really have a shutdown, which would be nice, according to the American people: 56 percent in the latest poll say these two situations, DACA, the DREAMers and the government being kept open shouldn't be coupled. That you should do both, but you should keep the government open.

So what are the specific sticking points, Senator? Tell me, when you guys talk about the DREAMers, what do the Democrats want that the Republicans don't want specifically?

CARDIN: Well, we want a pathway to get this resolved. The DREAMers need protection. President Trump established this problem last September when he put a six-month deadline on the DREAMers.

CUOMO: But it was created before. It was being litigated in the court. The executive order from President Obama was in trouble.

But help me understand. What does that mean you want a path forward protection? What does that mean? Are you asking to make DREAMers citizens?

CARDIN: We have a bipartisan agreement that's been reached by Senator Graham and Senator Durbin that has enough support to pass the United States Senate. We believe also the House of Representatives. It does provide protection for the DREAMers.

CUOMO: What does that mean, protection, though?


CUOMO: Does it mean they're citizens? So pathway to citizenship. What do the Republicans say?

CARDIN: ... to work. Well, Republicans, we believe they will support that. What they want is something in exchange for that. So the real hang-up has been border security.

But over the last week we were able to make some progress on the border security issue. So now we have an agreement on border security. We also have an agreement dealing with those in temporary protective status.

There is a bipartisan agreement that would end this crisis and would do it in a way that would protect the DREAMers, protect those with TPS status, border security, deal with the president's concerns on chain immigration. We have -- that has been agreed to. And all we need it do is put that on the floor, and we believe it will pass.

CUOMO: Why hasn't it being put on the floor?

CARDIN: But that's not the only issue.

CUOMO: Why isn't that being put on the floor? What's the other issue?

CARDIN: The reason, quite frankly, is that -- well, I think the reason is that you have a minority within the majority party that is insisting that these issues not be brought up at this time. That they want further concessions on other immigration issues, they want to deal with other immigration issues that will make it impossible for us to get this done by March.

The other issue, the main issue is the budget. That is the tax, how much are we going to spend on defense and nondefense? That's the main issue. That's the debate and negotiations that have taken place now for the last four months. That needs to be resolved so we can get a budget. We can't operate on continuing resolutions. But that's the main issue.

Yes, we need to resolve the DREAMers. Yes, we need to deal with health care beyond just the CHIP program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, we've got community health centers. We have therapy caps. There are things that need to be resolved in health care.

CUOMO: But you -- do you think that you're going to get any of those more extenuating situations and issues dealt with in a three-week C.R.?

[07:25:00] CARDIN: Yes. You know, each of these areas, there's been discussions taking place for over four months. We believe that we're in a good place to resolve all these issues.

What I've asked for, quite frankly, keep government open. Keep us in town. And let's get this issue resolved in the next week or two. I think we can get it done in the next week or two.

Can we pass all the budgets by then? No. We can at least know what the top-line numbers are going to be. We can deal with the health care issues. We can deal with the DREAMers. We can get that done in the next two weeks.

CUOMO: All right. Quickly, tell me, as of right now, where are you on a vote today to reopen the government? And has the president been helpful in this process?

CARDIN: First, the president has not been helpful. Every opportunity he has where you think you're moving forward, he changes his mind after he talks to someone else on his staff. So the president has not exercised the leadership that we need from the president of the United States.

That's why many of us believe that, when you start casting blame, President Trump should have been much more engaged and could have avoided the shutdown. So we think it's his shutdown.

Where am I going to vote this afternoon depends on how the caucus goes today, how the negotiations go this morning. We have confidence in Senator Schumer in his negotiations on behalf of the issues we care about as they are caucused today. We'll get an update from Senator Schumer.

CUOMO: All right. Make sure to remind Senator Schumer, who, obviously, the minority leader is welcome here on the show. We keep inviting him. 2013 he called what's happening right now madness, that it shouldn't be allowed to happen. Remind him of that.

Senator Cardin, thank you for joining us. And please let us know how it goes. You're always welcome back to discuss these important matters.

CARDIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So you're going to keep hearing from the left and the right that the White House is essential here. Well, then why isn't there more influence being exerted? Why isn't the president seeming to be more involved?

We're going to take this up, getting as close to the seat of power as we can. In primetime tonight, we have the man at the center of the shutdown, for operative reasons. The budget director is the one who actually controls shutdown activities. And that's Mick Mulvaney. He's going to join us tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.

HARLOW: All right. Looking forward to that. Meantime right now, Vice President Mike Pence is in Israel. He's about to address lawmakers there. What will his message be? This of course as the U.S. prepares to move its embassy to Jerusalem. A live report ahead.