[VIDEO]: Sen. Coons on immigration debate: “We shouldn't finish until we have a deal.”
Sen. Coons on Pres. Trump: “I think he should let the Senate do its work and then see what he's willing to accept.”
WASHINGTON – This morning, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the latest in the immigration debate in the Senate.
“The reason why Senator McCain called me last week and said, let’s give this a trial move ahead, is because, it's a bill that was written by Will Hurd, Republican Congressman, former CIA operative who has the longest Texas-Mexico border in his district of any district in the country, 800 miles,” said Senator Coons. “Will Hurd teamed up with Pete Aguilar of Southern California. It has 54 cosponsors in the House—27 Republicans, 27 Democrats. So, Senator McCain, who is a great friend and someone I deeply admire, was willing to partner up with me and introduce it. It only focuses on Dreamers and border. That's it.”
Full audio and video available here.
Excerpts from the interview:
Sen. Coons on whether there will be a vote today: I'm very hopeful we'll get a vote today. Now, the leadership has to agree on exactly which votes are coming to the floor. But the McCain-Coons bill at this point is the only bipartisan bill that is likely to get a vote. The origin of the bill is in the House. The reason why Senator McCain called me last week and said, let’s give this a trial move ahead, is because, it's a bill that was written by Will Hurd, Republican Congressman, former CIA operative who has the longest Texas-Mexico border in his district of any district in the country, 800 miles. Will Hurd teamed up with Pete Aguilar of Southern California. It has 54 cosponsors in the House—27 Republicans, 27 Democrats. So, Senator McCain, who is a great friend and someone I deeply admire, was willing to partner up with me and introduce it. It only focuses on Dreamers and border. That's it.
More on McCain-Coons: The whole idea of having an open debate is we put out a bill that is the Trump agenda that Grassley introduced that's very broad and touches on a very wide range of issues. We put out something that's just border, just Dreamers. Have a debate, take a vote. See which one gets 60. If it’s neither, take amendments.
Sen. Coons on Sen. McConnell: He said he would start with a neutral base bill and he did. He said he would allow us to proceed to this debate and he did. What I don't think is reasonable is the statement by Senator Cornyn yesterday that we have to be done by tomorrow, by Thursday.
Sen. Coons on why they are rushing: I don't understand either. There is no deadline tomorrow. The only deadline is March 5th, which was a deadline created by the President.
Sen. Coons on the process: That's right. And there haven't been committee hearings on this. I'll remind you, Mitch, the Republican Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, is a fan of regular order, as am I. We have a lot of senators who are just coming up to speed on the minutia, on the details of what these immigration policies would do.
Sen. Coons on working on Saturday: We could work all weekend. In fact, to me the most encouraging development was the Common Sense Coalition, two dozen senators, Republicans and Democrats, that Senator Collins and Senator Manchin have led that met over and over and over, we’re meeting again this morning. We started meeting on the Saturday of the shutdown. As a way to try to get to an agreement to get us out of shutdown. It has started. We shouldn't finish until we have a deal.
Sen. Coons on bipartisanship: I do think that Chairman Corker and now Ranking Member Cardin, now Ranking Member Menendez respect each other well, worked together well on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to make it possible for us to preserve the benefits, the progress of the JCPOA, while still addressing the significant and unresolved problems with Iran's reckless ballistic nuclear program, its human rights violation, and its support of terrorism in the region. It's a tricky path. We have a President who refuses to continue certifying and we've got vital allies in Europe who have real concerns about the threat of our withdrawal from the JCPOA. I do think the Foreign Relations Committee on which I serve is the most bipartisan committee that I'm on and it has made great progress in tackling a whole series of problems. I've enjoyed working with Senator Corker. We had several bipartisan bills in the last Congress. We're about to introduce a new one in the weeks ahead. I have found him a great partner to work with and I think he will work very well with Menendez to save what there is worth saving about the JCPOA.
Sen. Coons on Corker reconsidering reelection: He's a wonderful partner. He is not answering that question, at least not when I asked him.
Sen. Coons on White House security clearances: It's striking that someone as senior, the person who literally was deciding what was going in front of President of the United States, had a temporary security clearance and as FBI Director Wray testified, one that clearly was operating under a cloud where there were questions that had been resolved and presented. I think we have a White House that continues to really struggle with its relationship with the intelligence community, with its handling of classified material, the way the President has acted in terms of refusing to release the Democratic memo is another unanswered question of what's the goal and what's the objective here. I thought Devin Nunes’ memo was a partisan slap of the FBI when you read it and look into the details, there's not much there, there. Not unlike other things that have come out of the White House in recent days. I've been disappointed by the infrastructure proposal, for example. So, there's a lot where there was a lot of noise made about this memo. I don't think there's a lot of substance there. And the absence of a Democratic response I think leaves an incomplete conversation.
More on immigration: Well, that's exactly the challenge we're going to be confronting both on the floor today and tomorrow and in the Common Sense Coalition debates. I think we should be doing this in two phases. I think we should be focusing first on a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and a robust plan for border security, both southern and northern borders. I think that is a responsible deal that allows the President to get what he's been looking for and allows those of us who are advocates for the Dreamers to secure some stability for them. There are many other issues that are unresolved and unaddressed from temporary protective status to H1B and H2B Visas. One of the challenges we face is we're negotiating with someone like Donald Trump who doesn't seem to take yes for an answer, he claims to be a great dealmaker but in several famously pointed or uneven exchanges he'll accept a deal on Tuesday and reject it on Thursday, I think the hardening of his position doesn't make this week easier. I think he should let the Senate do its work and then see what he's willing to accept.
Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov
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