Congress Faces A New Deadline On The Budget This Week

Feb 5, 2018
Originally published on February 6, 2018 11:18 am
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Congress is facing a deadline to pass a budget plan. And if they don't meet it, the government could shut down. If that sounds familiar, it's because, just weeks ago, lawmakers were in this exact same spot. And the dynamics that led to that impasse haven't changed a whole lot. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is in the studio with us. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Here we are again. So I just said it (laughter). Not a whole lot has changed since the last funding deadline, right?

DETROW: No, there's one key thing that has...

MARTIN: Oh, good.

DETROW: ...Changed. The dynamics themselves have not changed. There's still no agreement on a long-term funding deal. This will probably be yet another stopgap measure. And on immigration, nothing has changed at all. Both sides dug into their corners. The White House wants a lot of changes to legal immigration, and Democrats just aren't interested in doing that. Here's what is different - Democrats in the Senate realized that voting for a government shutdown a couple weeks ago was a mistake, and they're not going to do it again. Here's Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin.


DICK DURBIN: There's not likely to be a DACA deal, though we're working every single day - on telephone calls and person to person - to try to reach this bipartisan agreement. I don't see a government shutdown coming, but I do see a promise by Senator McConnell to finally bring this critical issue that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in America - finally bringing it to a full debate.

MARTIN: So if Democrats aren't going to use their leverage on DACA, then what does that mean?

DETROW: It's a little bit unclear. Durbin was talking about the promise that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made to end the last shutdown - that the Senate would proceed to debate on immigration after this funding period. So that's going to happen next. And I think that's a key thing to look on. Will this be a serious debate? Will this come up with legislation that can not only pass the Senate but pass the House, where there's a lot more hard-line conservatives who just don't want to give any sort of protection to DACA - to people in the DACA program right now?

MARTIN: All right. So Congress hasn't been talking about the budget or immigration. They have been talking about memos - one in particular. Last week ended with the release of this partisan memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes. President Trump says that the memo vindicates him on the Russia investigation. He - clearly, the president believes that this is going to have some kind of effect.

DETROW: Yeah. It was interesting. You had a lot of Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan and others, saying this memo was not about taking down the Mueller investigation. It was not about discrediting the FBI. Then President Trump over the weekend comes out and says that it's exactly that - that this proves the Russia investigation is a hoax. So many Republicans actually pushed back on that over the weekend after President Trump said that, among them South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy speaking to CBS.


TREY GOWDY: The dossier has nothing to do with a meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there's going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.

MARTIN: And the dossier is central - a central component of the memo.

DETROW: Exactly. The argument was that the FBI took this document with partisan beginnings and used it to get wiretaps approved. And Gowdy was laying out several other factors that the FBI was allegedly looking at. But, you know, this memo certainly has muddied the water and led to a lot of Republicans bashing the FBI, bashing the Justice Department. And President Trump seems confident that even if this doesn't undermine the investigation itself, it may undermine public confidence in whatever the investigation concludes.

MARTIN: OK. Real quick - the Democrats had their own memo - they say to give context - is that going to come out?

DETROW: Unclear. The House Intelligence Committee meets this afternoon and may vote on that. Even if they approve it, President Trump would have to give the final OK. And given the way that he views the Republican memo as vindicating him, hard to see him OK'ing...

MARTIN: Unlikely.

DETROW: ...A Democratic memo that discredits it.

MARTIN: Right. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, thanks.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.