Rep. Charlie Dent Discusses How House Will Approach Immigration Bill
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
So the shutdown is over. The Federal Government is open at least for the next 16 days when the next budget deadline looms and federal funding runs out again.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Now the deal that ended the shutdown rests on a promise - a promise by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on immigration. At stake is the fate of the DREAMers - these are the immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children - and also the future of DACA, the program that has protected many of those DREAMers from being deported.
Here's the rub. Promises made in the Senate may or may not fly in the House. And House Democrats and Republicans are far from united on the way forward on an immigration deal.
KELLY: Well, let's talk to one of those House Republicans, Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. He is on the line now from his district. Hey there, Congressman.
CHARLIE DENT: Hi, Mary Louise. How are you?
KELLY: Hi. I'm well, thanks. And thanks for taking the time. Let me start by asking your reaction to the shutdown which of course is over now. From where you sit, what did the shutdown accomplish?
DENT: Well, this government shutdown in my view was entirely pointless. It was thoroughly unnecessary. What we need actually is a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement. And we also recognize that there's not likely to be one of those until we have some kind of path forward on the DREAMer, DACA issue tied to border security.
So it seems now that we've established some type of a path forward, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get off of this treadmill of continuing resolutions so that we can, you know, really get on a better path towards budgetary stability and hopefully a resolution on these DREAMers who came to this country no fault of their own.
KELLY: You've mentioned the importance of a bipartisan deal. How likely is that in the House? I mean, the House last year passed one significant piece of legislation, which was the tax overhaul. And you did it without Democratic support.
DENT: Yeah. That's a different matter. That was done through reconciliation. Any changes to DACA will go through a more regular order process where there would be a requirement for a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. So the only way to pass a DACA bill will be in a bipartisan manner certainly in the Senate and also in the House. There are not 218 Republican votes for some kind of a DACA border security bill. And even if we did have 218 Republican votes in the House for such a bill, you know, to what end, I mean, 'cause the Senate wouldn't take it up. So bottom line is the only path forward is a bipartisan one on the DREAMers and border security.
KELLY: Congressman, is it a given to you that there needs to be a big, sweeping immigration bill that takes on all of this at once, or might there be some value to just working on DACA, getting that passed and then turning attention to the other outstanding issues?
DENT: I prefer this incremental approach. You know, DACA, border security - we can manage that together along with maybe a little bit of the diversity visa reform. I prefer dealing with this in smaller pieces. Rather than a comprehensive bill, I would recommend a comprehensive process so that you would have perhaps multiple bills but dealing with, you know, different issues.
KELLY: And did - I mean, you were in the House yesterday I assume to pass this vote that's - you know, ended up ending the shutdown. I mean, were you seeing groups of bipartisan lawmakers actually sounding open to a path forward here?
DENT: Yes, I've seen that. Now, the compromise in the Senate - it's kind of interesting that this great compromise in the Senate changed the bill that the House sent them by one week - from February the 16th to February the 8th, eight days. I mean, that's - that was the big change, and - but what was more important than I guess that change was the path forward that there's - there seems to be a sincere desire on both sides to move on DACA and DREAMers. And we have to do that because if we don't do that, there's not going to be a budget agreement.
KELLY: You sound optimistic, I have to say, which is - given that we're just coming off of a government shutdown and the - you know, the latest in a round of continuing resolutions just over the issue of keeping the government open - forget fixing some of the huge problems that need to be addressed - I mean, what causes you to feel like this is something you actually see a solution to?
DENT: What causes the optimism? Well, I'm an Eagles fan.
DENT: And they won. And we're going to win the Super Bowl. But...
KELLY: So you're having a good week. There you go.
DENT: I guess, you know, you might want to ask me in a few weeks. If this process breaks down in the Senate, then you know, obviously my optimism would've been misplaced. But I do think that we should be optimistic about a path forward. The real issue - where this is going to get very interesting - if the Senate does pass this this immigration bill with border security. And they'll have over 60 votes. It'll be a strong bipartisan vote, I suspect. Then the pressure will be on the House of Representatives really to act. And I would encourage our leadership, the speaker to allow for a vote. And that's the way I think we should proceed.
KELLY: That's Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent. Congressman, thanks so much for your time.
DENT: Thank you so much - really appreciate it, Mary Louise.
KELLY: And go, Eagles.
DENT: Go, Eagles. Fly, Eagles; fly.
KELLY: (Laughter) OK. Thanks again.
DENT: Thank you. [CORRECTION:A previous headline and Web introduction to this story incorrectly identified Charlie Dent as a senator. Dent is a representative.]
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Correction Jan. 24, 2018
A previous headline and Web introduction to this story incorrectly identified Charlie Dent as a senator. Dent is a representative.