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Senate Negotiations Continue to Reopen the Government; Interview with Sen. John Thune; Interview with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries; Awaiting White House Daily Briefing & Trump Statement. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 22, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the American people, whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, whether you're a federal worker, whether you were planning to go today to a museum or national park, you heard nothing from the president for two and a half days now of a government shutdown. Just the basic nuts and bolts of being president. Silence.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A few tweets, but that was about it. You're absolutely right.

Everybody stand by.

Moments, from now the White House set to formally respond to the vote, answer questions about why the is the seems to be isolated from these negotiations. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, getting ready to hold her daily briefing. We'll, of course, have live coverage.

Plus, Republican Senator John Thune standing by. You can see him live on Capitol Hill. We have lots to discuss. Stand by for that.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), FLORIDA: -- walked through what happened. And I said, look, the mistake that was made then, in 2013, by Senate Republican leadership, was to turn and attack House Republicans and fellow Republicans and to turn fellow Republicans on each other. That was a mistake. I wish it hadn't happened. And I'm glad it didn't happen this time. This time Republicans actually stayed united. But the media loved to write the story, love to broadcast the story that any shutdown is Republicans' fault. That is a natural media reflex. It's actually one of the reasons I think we saw a shutdown, because I think Chuck Schumer and the Democrats believed they could shut the government down and reporters would dutifully blame it on Republicans, no matter what the facts.

[13:35:27] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On this shutdown, do you support what Leader McConnell has done, to promise to take up DACA, promise to take action to protect DREAMers in a temporary fashion? CRUZ: My understanding is that Mitch McConnell said we'll have a vote

on immigration. I think there's a lot of things we should do on immigration. I think we need to improve border security, we need to pass Kate's Law, which is a legislation that I introduced providing for mandatory minimum sentences for aggravated felons who repeatedly illegally enter this country. There is a lot we should do with immigration. I think it would be a serious mistake for us to pass an amnesty bill providing amnesty and a path for citizenship for millions of people here illegally, along with chain migration. I think that would be an enormous mistake. Congress might do that. I hope it doesn't. Doing so would be inconsistent with the promises we made to the American people in 2016.


CRUZ: Thank you, guys.


BLITZER: Ted Cruz voicing his opinions.

Let's get more reaction now on today's very important vote.

Joining us from Capitol Hill, Senator John Thune, the Republican from South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, making him the third-ranking Republican in the Senate.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Thank you, Wolf. Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Do you agree with Ted Cruz? You just heard his position.

THUNE: I agree we need to move forward on the issue of immigration, which I think Leader McConnell was willing to do before the shutdown. In fact, was willing to do way back last fall. I think he announced that this was an issue the Senate was going to deal with sometime early this year. I don't think there was anything gained by all this. But I do think that we ought to ban the use of shutdowns as a weapon of choice for either side to use because nobody's interests get served, and what we've just seen in the last couple of days is the uncertainty and chaos that comes when that happens.

BLITZER: Do you disagree with the president? He, over the weekend, suggested that you guys in the Senate eliminate the filibuster, the 60-vote requirement, just go back to a simple 51-vote majority. That would change the historical precedence of the United States Senate. Do you think you should do that?

THUNE: I think that would be shortsighted, Wolf. I really do. Being able to avoid a government shutdown shouldn't require us to change the rules in the Senate. It ought to be something that Republicans and Democrats agree shouldn't be used, particularly when designed or used to promote something that's completely unrelated to funding the government. Republicans obviously had that experience in 2013. And I think Democrats learned this time that, you know, that's not a good choice to make, and certainly when you don't have a strategy going into this. And i think they discovered after a couple three days that they were playing a bad hand, they were playing a weak hand, and that this isn't going to turn out well for them. I'm glad they decided to roll with us to open the government. Let's get the discussion going again on how to solve these important issues, one of which, of course, is DACA.

BLITZER: As far as DACA is concerned, you heard Senator Cruz suggest you allow hundres of thousands of those DREAMers, DACA recipients to stay, he seemed to suggest that's amnesty. Is it amnesty?

THUNE: I think there is a way of legalizing these young people who were brought here as children before their age of accountability by their parents through no fault of their own, they're here in the country illegally, but I think there is a lot of sympathy for providing some way to get them legalized. That doesn't necessarily imply a path to citizenship, but I think there is sympathy on both sides among Republicans and Democrats. And that's what the debate will be all about. I think Senator Cruz and other members in our caucus will have their own views about it and they'll have an opportunity to express those. But we need to get moving forward in addressing this issue. We have until March, but now we have until February 8th at which point, if we haven't gotten a solution, we'll have sort of a free-ranging, wide-ranging debate on immigration, as the leader indicated earlier this morning in his remarks.

BLITZER: It's going to be very, very significant.

I spoke earlier this hour with the principal White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, who said the president is open to putting on the table a pathway to citizenship for the DREAMers, provided it includes other elements, better border security, ending what he calls chain migration, the lottery system. I assume you're open to that pathway to citizenship as well?

[13:39:53] THUNE: I'm open to -- yes, I'm anxious to hear, obviously, what the president would like to see happen in this. Ultimately, he's the person that can sign this into law. But there are a lot of conservative Senators, Republican Senators, Wolf, who have expressed an openness to that legalization process, whether that's a path to citizenship or some other form of legalization. I think in the end, whatever comes out in terms of a result probably will address the long-term status of these DACA kids. I think it's important that issue be addressed, once and for all.

BLITZER: Senator, the president will be speaking momentarily. We're going to hear what he has to say. That's coming up.

Do you have a good sense right now to know exactly where he stands on all these very sensitive immigration-related issues?

THUNE: I think what he's laid out, and he's been very engaged. Everybody says he wasn't engaged over the weekend. He's not a Senator, he can't vote, and he doesn't appropriate money. We do. We need to end the shutdown. But the president, once the discussion gets started on immigration, will be very much engaged. We know he wants a strong border security, he wants something done with chain migration and with the visa lottery, in addition to addressing DACA. If we can include those four elements are featured in some piece of legislation, I think we'll get the president's signature.

BLITZER: You think -- let's say you guys pass a good legislation on those in the Senate. A few years ago, you did pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, but when it was brought to the House, they didn't even bring it up for a vote, the Republican leadership, because a majority of Republicans in the House didn't support it. Are you confident they will at least consider it and allow an up-and-down vote in the House?

THUNE: I think the one thing we know historically, Wolf, whatever the Senate does doesn't bind the House. But I do think that if discussions occur between Leader McCarthy and Hoyer and Cornyn and Durbin, you'll have all the whips in the House and the Senate, bicameral, bipartisan, negotiating this. If they come up with something they can bring to the House and Senate that they know the president will sign into law, I think there is a pathway here to getting this done. I hope that's where the discussions originate. Otherwise, it could be very hard to pass something in the Senate that ultimately goes to the House and would get majority support there and something the president would sign into law. I think it's important these discussions begin with that group that was meeting. Let's continue that and let's see if we can move very quickly now to close those discussions out and get to a solution for the American people.

BLITZER: The president will have to play a very, very important role. Not so much in the Senate, where I think you guys are on the verge of coming up with a compromise that can pass, but once it goes to the House, we need to work very hard to make sure it goes to the role there.

I think you were deeply involved in this since the government shut down Saturday night to Sunday morning at 12:00 a.m. How much of a role did the president play in getting this deal done today?

THUNE: I think the president has over the weekend and a couple different times tweeted about how important it is we get the government reopened and that we're not going to have a discussion about DACA until the government is reopened and functioning again. His role is always an important one. And as you pointed out, if there is a bill that comes out of the Senate and goes to the House, in order to get it passed in the House, it's going to take a tremendous amount of input and support and encouragement from the president. I think he's going to be key to any solution going forward. His role will be an important one. And I suspect we'll be hearing from him early and often now once the discussions get underway.

BLITZER: We'll be hearing from him coming up fairly soon, we're told, so we'll hear what he has to say.

Senator Thune, thanks so much for joining us.

THUNE: Nice to be with you. Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Moments from now, the Senate votes to reopen the government

following that earlier procedural vote to move ahead. Then the president will come out, speak live, sign this legislation into law, keeping the government full speed ahead at least for the next three weeks.

Coming up, I'll speak with a key Democratic lawmaker from the House side. There he is, Hakeem Jeffries. I'll ask him what he believes the Senate Democrats did. Did they cave, did they blink? We'll get his analysis right after this.


[13:48:18] BLITZER: A deal in the Senate to end the government shutdown, Democrats agreeing to a Republican plan to reopen the federal government. But any deal now is to be sent to the House of Representatives before the president can sign it into law.

Let's bring Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York. He's joining us on Capitol Hill.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D), NEW YORK: Good afternoon, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Senate is going to pass it, it's going to come to the House. Are you going to vote for it?

JEFFRIES: I'm going to evaluate the particulars of the legislation in the next hour or so, but I expect it having enough votes, both Democratic and Republican votes, to pass in the House of Representatives and be sent to the president for his signature. That's a good thing. Democrats believe in government, we believe in the ability of government to do good things for the American people. We want to see government reopen.

What we need to do moving forward, however, is to end this continuous cycle of continuing resolution after continuing resolution, kicking the can down the road and not enacting a comprehensive budget and spending bill through the remainder of the fiscal year. That's what the American people deserve. That's what we should see moving forward.

BLITZER: So a lot of your colleagues, at least some of them, suggest that the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, also from New York, and other Senate Democrats caved as far as this final position today is concerned. What do you think?

JEFFRIES: I don't think that's the case at all. First of all, in terms of the original vote that was taken on Friday evening, there were Republican Senators like Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham who voted not to fund the government through the vehicle of the continuing resolution. There was some Democrats in the United States Senate who actually voted to support continuing to fund the government.

I think that the agreement that has been reached, can one shortening the use of this resolution from the original time period which was going to run through February 16 to this newly negotiated time period, February 8, is important. More importantly perhaps is the agreement that was secured to have an actual up-or-down vote on the issue related to the DREAMers. That's what they deserve. That's what the American people deserve in terms of functional government. Let's see where everyone stands to try to resolve this issue moving forward.

[13:50:39] BLITZER: It's clear to me that you seem inclined to go ahead when the bill comes to the House in the next few hours to vote for it. But you still haven't made up your mind 100 percent. Is that what I'm hearing?

JEFFRIES: Yes. I'm inclined to go ahead. The responsible thing to do is look at the particulars before I commit one way or the other.

What I do believe is the right thing for us to do, however, is to commit to the notion that we need a budget that goes through the balance of the fiscal year which, as you know, Wolf, ends September 30. This continuing resolution, for instance, doesn't deal with the issue of community health centers. It doesn't deal with the issue of rural health care. It doesn't deal with the opioid crisis, with disaster relief. It doesn't provide veterans with the security they need moving forward that they are going to be able to live with the dignity and respect they deserve in the context of their own health care. That's the problem with continuing resolutions that the Republicans have consistently brought to us time and time again.

BLITZER: If the Senate does pass over the next few weeks some compromise legislation allowing hundreds of thousands of DREAMers to stay in the United States legally, maybe even have a pathway to citizenship, do you believe the Republican majority, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives -- and you are a member of the House -- will allow that to come up for a vote in the Senate. It did pass comprehensive immigration reform for millions of undocumented immigrants but didn't come up for a vote in the House because the leadership at that time didn't think a majority of Republicans would support it.

JEFFRIES: The responsible thing to do for the Republican leadership and speaker Ryan is to commit to a vote today. That's what Mitch McConnell has done. That's what democracy should allow for -- that each of us, 435 members, should be able to go to the floor and vote in a manner consistent with what our constituents would want us to do. You know, Wolf, if there was an actual vote to protect the DREAMers and allow them a pathway to citizenship, it would pass by considerable margins in the House of Representatives. That's the failure and breakdown in our democracy, the refusal of House Republicans to allow this vote to move forward. There's bipartisan legislation worked out by Congressman Aguilar and Congressman Hurd that has substantial support.

We also need presidential leadership, Wolf. There is the Tuesday Trump who says he'll support bipartisan legislation. Then the Thursday Trump blows up a bipartisan deal and uses racially derogatory phrases to describe hardworking people from Haiti and the continent of Africa. Hopefully, we'll see presidential leadership from the Tuesday Trump to end the crisis, chaos and confusion he's brought to us since day one of his presidency.

BLITZER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, thank you very much for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are standing by for the White House press briefing. Also awaiting the president of the United States. He'll be making a statement, we are told, later this afternoon, presumably, after the House of Representatives votes to end the government shutdown.

Much more special coverage coming up.


[13:56:17] BLITZER: White House briefing moments from now. Live coverage coming up. Looking at live pictures.

Let's bring back Mark Preston and Karoun Demirjian.

Karoun, it looks like it's all a done deal. The government is going to reopen. There are a few technical snags, right?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLTICAL ANALYST: That's why you don't have it declared a done deal yet. They have to go through the hoops of making the second Senate vote happen and kicking it to the House and hoping that nothing --


BLITZER: The first Senate vote, which passed overwhelmingly, was procedural. Now they have to vote on the bill.

DEMIJIAN: Right. Exactly. It's not a challenge to get through the procedural vote this will pass through the Senate and kicks to the House. There is a question of who votes for it in the House. The idea it will probably be done. You have 81 votes on the Senate side. The odds of it not passing in the House are slim. The question is, what's next. This won't go without vitriol exchange on the floor about everything they have not yet resolved and everything that's unsatisfactory from the fact that it's a three-week bill.

BLITZER: Mark, we'll hear from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, in a moment. We'll have live coverage. It is another to hear from the president of the United States.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Which we haven't heard from. Again, we haven't heard his voice in the first or last few days. It will be an interesting position now for President Trump, what role he'll play to try to get the DACA deal done. He has sent mixed messages that are 180 degrees different one day from the next. What influence will he have on House Republicans to get the DACA deal done. Listening to some Republicans talking about the deal who were talking about hoping to get a deal, they seem nervous that DACA won't be done and that it will take a big push on behalf of the White House. We'll see if the White House is there. BLITZER: The president will have to take charge if this is to be a

done deal. Not just in the Senate but the House.

DEMIRJIAN: The politics many the House are the problematic one for getting DACA done. The Republicans haven't been as willing as the Republicans in the Senate. They have been saying over the last several days hanging together has worked well for them the last few fights, including this one. They have to break rank because there are too many conservative Republicans that will never vote for this and work with Democrats and probably rely on a majority of Democrats to get something DACA-related through. That takes Paul Ryan saying, I will break up this coalition that's working well for the GOP. To make that decision without the president's support is a troublesome thing.

BLITZER: He says he's the great dealmaker. It will be a challenge to put this deal together and make it work.

Guys, thank you very much.

That's it for me. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Meantime, right here on CNN, the news continues right now.

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