Sen. Coons: “That sort of leadership could produce real bipartisan progress and I have to remain hopeful that that's possible.”

Sen. Coons: “This system doesn't work without compromise.”

WASHINGTON – This morning, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss yesterday’s bipartisan meeting on immigration reform at the White House.  

“The challenge for those of us who have been sent here by our states to do what our system requires is that we find ways to compromise. I'm willing to work with our President if that would move forward a resolution to the legal status of the 800,000 young people currently in limbo. I'm willing to work with our President if that will get a real infrastructure bill done in a constructive way. I'm not willing to work with our President where he violates fundamental values or puts at risk the rule of law.”

Full video and audio available here

Excerpts from the interview:

Senator Coons on White House meeting on immigration reform: Well, my New Year's resolution is to be hopeful, to be positive, so I think there are millions of Americans who voted for President Trump thinking that they were getting a businessman who knew how to bring people together, to cut big deals, and to sort of get through some of the divisions of Washington. That's not the President we've seen last year. But, for a variety of reasons, he's realized that that's the President he needs to be in order to be successful as President and in order for the Republican Party to survive the 2018 elections. So, what I thought we saw yesterday in that meeting, both in the visuals and the conversation, was a President really trying to be and sound reasonable on a compromise around the Dreamers, on DACA. But, we're coming up against a very difficult deadline that, I'll remind you, he created. And, we've got nearly 800,000 young Americans who are really at risk of losing their place in our society, and there is a big gap between the right in the Republican Party and the majority of the country on immigration. We passed a broad, bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in the last Congress in the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Never got taken up in the House. The politics of immigration are very hard. But, if the President chooses to make this not just a one day photo op, but to show real leadership here, he actually could move us forward by getting a resolution to the status of Dreamers and new investment in border security. 

More on immigration reform: I think it is a possibility. If you think about it, it was Nixon, the hard-lined anti-communist who opened to China to have someone who ran on a hard-lined anti-immigrant campaign platform be willing to genuinely embrace a bipartisan solution could finally get us over this hurdle. But, President Obama, President Bush, Congressional leaders of both parties over many Congresses have tried very hard. The politics in the Republican Party of allowing a pathway to citizenship for folks who came here even through no fault of their own as children is very difficult. But, this is the President. President Trump is the President who could get that done. And, I'll remind you, that comprehensive immigration reform bill that was taken up and passed by the Senate scored as adding hundreds of billions of dollars to our GDP, it would help deal with some of the deficit problems that the tax bill he just signed into law may well create. It really could be a win for every sector of our society and economy. 

More on DACA: There's certainly partisan politics in both parties and for every electoral cycle. The challenge for those of us who have been sent here by our states to do what our system requires is that we find ways to compromise. I'm willing to work with our President if that would move forward a resolution to the legal status of the 800,000 young people currently in limbo. I'm willing to work with our President if that will get a real infrastructure bill done in a constructive way. I'm not willing to work with our President where he violates fundamental values or puts at risk the rule of law. I'm working diligently, hard on the Judiciary Committee to protect Robert Mueller and to make sure that he's able to advance his investigation, but I also extend an open hand to work with the administration on advancing manufacturing. I was just with SBA Administrator from the Trump administration in Delaware welcoming her to tour a great small business in Delaware; it's one of the committees I serve on. I have no problem working with the Trump administration where they're doing good things that will help create jobs or make our country safer or more just. But, I do think to your point that the Trump administration, that President Trump has done things and continues to do things that requires Democrats to stand up.  

Senator Coons on Trump and bipartisanship: The proof will be in the pudding. We'll see in a matter of days whether what happened yesterday was simply a publicity stunt that allowed the President to once again change the narrative, so that today everything that we're talking about this morning on television is about this promising start to bipartisan conversation around DACA and immigration reform rather than the President's fitness for office. Is he just trying to change the conversation for a day? Or is he trying to demonstrate real leadership? It would require real political sacrifice for him to sign into law something that overcame the opposition of a hardcore group of House Republicans to any pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. That sort of leadership could produce real bipartisan progress and I have to remain hopeful that that's possible, or it's just not worth getting on the train every morning from Wilmington, Delaware, to get down here to Washington to do this job. This system doesn't work without compromise. And, I was struck that the President just threw out casually into the mix yesterday that he thinks we should bring back earmarks; that Congress should have some role in directing appropriations. That's one of many ways in which our budget, our appropriations process, is broken. We don't have an opportunity to identify specific projects in our home states that get vetted, that benefit a public purpose, and that is one the reasons why we haven't had a full and productive appropriations process in the seven years that I've been here, but that was a stunning change in position from many in his party and many in his base. Will he follow through on that and continue to support the idea of some sort of new, but transparent earmark? Will he follow through on yesterday's meeting and take substantive actions that might inflame his base? We'll see. That's the challenge of leadership. 

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