It’s a New Year, but for Congress, it all begins with a hangover from the Old Year: problems and issues left unresolved.
The government is due to run out of funding on January 19, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ends in March, and looming over everything, this week's erratic tweetstorm from President Trump.
To see how Congress plans to deal with all this, Stateside talked to Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint.
You can listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.
On GOP leaders’ promises of bipartisanship
“If they really want Democratic support, they would be talking to us about reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. They would be talking to us about some kind of parity in the way the new budget caps are set between defense and domestic priorities. If they really wanted to have a conversation with us, they would talk about the really difficult problem with DREAMers, those children who came here through no fault of their own and are now at risk of deportation because of the new policies of the Trump administration. If they want to have a conversation about those things, but they can’t continue to push those discussions to the last 48 hours of a budget deadline and expect to have anything significant really take place.”
On finding a DACA solution before the program expires in March
“We could do it next week, actually. Because my estimate, and this is based on a lot of conversations, that there’s something in the neighborhood of 300 members of the House, out of 435, who would support codifying the DACA policy. You know, this was policy that was put in place by President Obama with the anticipation that Congress would make it law.
“Most people support it in the country, and most of Congress supports it, but the Republican leadership won’t put it up for a vote, because it doesn’t conform to what they call the “Hastert Rule,” which is this odd rule that they use. It’s an informal rule that says if the majority of Republicans don’t support a bill, even if a majority of Congress does, you don’t get to vote. And that’s unfortunately where we stand right now.”
On the importance of reauthorizing CHIP
“Well, we simply ought to reauthorize it the way we have since it was first created decades ago. I mean, this was a piece of legislation that was championed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Orrin Hatch— two people that had different ideologies, but came together around the idea that children ought to have access to healthcare. One hundred thousand young people in Michigan, for example, benefit from this. We ought to simply reauthorize it like we have done for decades, and not allow it to be used as a bargaining chip in other battles. Let’s leave the kids out of it, basically, is what I say we should do.”
On the chaos and drama of the Trump White House
“It’s worrisome and really troubling that otherwise reasonable Republicans that I have worked with for the five years that I have been in Congress seem to have lost the ability to tell fact from fiction when it comes to Donald Trump. Or they know better, and they’re unwilling to challenge him. There are Republicans who are afraid of Donald Trump, and they are conceding their Constitutional responsibility to check the power of the president — something that has been a part of our government for 240 years — because of their own fear of a tweet from the president criticizing them or his unwillingness to stand with them."
“What I say to them is: put some steel in your spine, look at the president’s track record... They ought to be willing to stand up to him. And unless they do, I think what we’re seeing with Mr. Bannon and some of these other problems, his taunting of Kim Jong Un, puts us in real jeopardy. And I’m calling on my Republican colleagues to do their duty.”
Tune in to Stateside tomorrow for a Republican representative's take on Congress' busy agenda this month.