GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Let’s bring in the president’s point man. On Capitol Hill, Marc Short joins us right now. I know (ph) you’ve been burning the midnight oil. Marc, thank you for joining us this morning. Let’s start out with what Jon Karl was just talking about, right there, that meeting Friday between President Trump and Senator Schumer where they had the outline of an agreement. Are we close?
MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: George, thanks for having me back. But George, I think that honestly, what’s befuddling to us is we do think we’re making progress. What the president outlined was four issue priorities. The Jon went through. (ph) And helping to solve the DACA issue, which we want to do, too.
Keep in mind these are people age 16 to age 36 with work permits, which means they do not have any criminal background, they’re here being productive to our country. We want to solve border security, we want to end the chain — chain migration, we want to end the visa lottery program. In two of those main functions, we are seeing Democrats lose (ph) on the border security issue, which is one that our border patrol agents have said this is what we need to secure our southern border.
I think you’ve seen the White House show an openness to expand that population where Democrats have said there are other people who should be part of the DACA population because either they were afraid (ph) or didn’t apply to the program. We’ve shown you (ph) the willingness to consider that. So we feel like we’re making progress on multiple areas. What’s befuddling, then, is why are we shutting down the government.
Everything that’s in the bill is things that Democrats have added (ph) for. Which, on — on the specifics of that deal, what I — our understand was that Senator Schumer offered — you know, the $20 billion over several years on the border wall planning but in return for no changes on the chain migration and visa lottery. Is that acceptable to president (ph), is that something he would sell (ph) Republicans in the Congress?
George, I think the problem with that construct is we’re going to be (ph) back here in the exact same position in a few years. If we don’t solve the chain migration visa lottery programs, we will be back here in a few years debating over a new population. Let’s keep in mind that two terror attacks, most recently that happened in the United States, the pipe bomber came in through chain migration. The — the one — the terrorist who ran individuals in New York and killed several people, he came in through the visa lottery program.
These are programs that Americans want ended. Why are we — why are delaying ending those programs for a future debate? We need to make sure that we don’t end up back at the same table in a couple years having the same debate on immigration. So we want all these issues solved right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But so — so that’s the official position of the White House? Because it did seem, according to Senator Schumer, that the president was intrigued by that initial deal when it was presented. But in the meantime, there weren’t any meetings at the White House yesterday with the president. That meeting with Senator Schumer was the last one he had in person on the (ph) immigration.
I was to show something the president himself said in 2013, during the last government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to get everybody in a room, you have to be a leader, the president has to lead, you have to be nice and be angry and be wild a cajole and do all sorts of things, but you have to get a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The government shutdown at midnight on Friday. Why didn’t the president have the leaders down at the White House yesterday?
SHORT: Well George, keep in mind a week ago he did have them over at the White House. He had a bipartisan, bicameral group of members that we to discuss exactly these issues. What we’re…
STEPHANOPOUOLOS: That’s a lifetime ago in politics.
SHORT: George, what we’re facing right now is Democrats taking an absolutely implausible position that says we’re going to deny funding to 2 million troops who are serving our country, tens of thousands of border patrol agents trying to protect our country from an issue that’s not even in this bill. That is an impossible place from which to negotiate.
Chuck Schumer himself, in 2013, that same negotiation, that same shutdown said it’s like somebody coming into your house, taking your wife and children hostage and then trying to negotiate the price of your house. That’s exactly what he’s doing right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So — so bottom line, you’re just not going to move at all until the Democrats say we’re not — until the Democrats say they’re willing to open the government —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — without considering changes to DACA?
SHORT: No, I don’t — I don’t think that’s true, George. I think you’ve seen us move. I think you’ve seen us move throughout the negotiation on immigration. You’ve also seen also seen us — the bill has seen — you know, the amendment’s seen offered tonight (ph) that Jon Karl just mentioned, is the change from taking it from a four week to a three work continuing resolution, which is what the Democrats have asked for, for a shorter time period.
So we have been yielding, we have been showing flexibility to say let’s find a deal to make sure that again, our troops and our border patrol agents are not denied payment. But that — the Democrats seem unwilling to even accept that offer, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of that, I know a bipartisan group of senators are working on that deal to extend the — the government funding to separate and return (ph) for a promise from the leadership and the president that they would get votes on their immigration deal in both houses. Is the president willing to make that promise?
SHORT: Let’s keep in mind a couple things. One, there is a bill that’s already been introduced in the House by Chairman Goodlatte that we do hope gets a vote. The Senate does not yet have a bill that has been introduced. The Democrats keep having this position of saying we need to rally behind the Durbin, Flake, Graham position. They don’t even have text they’ve (ph) introduced.
We are happy to open that debate as soon as people want. We were anxious to have this debate six, nine months ago when General Kelly went to Congress and said we need a solution. We’ve provided our principles to Congress to say (ph) this is what we want in a legislative package. But we’re not afraid of a timetable on this. We want to have the right resolution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And are — how worried are you that this is going to come back to hurt Republicans? You saw our poll coming in. Americans more inclined to blame the president and Republicans for the shutdown than Democrats.
SHORT: You know, I think that Eric Trump was — was right in what he said and that the reality, I think, is that Democrats are forcing this shutdown because they look at what’s happened over the last year and they’re captive by a part (ph) of their base. They see the record tax cut, they see the repeal of the individual mandate, the rollbacks of regulations, the record number of circuit court judges and the Supreme Court Justice confirmed and they see the president making a difference and the base of their party is holding them captive.
And they’ve put themselves in a box now, there’s a hard way to find a way out. How do you get out of a situation where you’re denying funding to our troops and our border agents?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, the president’s political team hitting (ph) them hard, coming out with this ad last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: It’s pure evil. President Trump is right. Build the wall. Deport criminals. Stop illegal immigration now. Democrats who stand in our way will become complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants. President Trump will fix our border and keep our families safe.
TRUMP: I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats complicity in murder?
SHORT: George, I think that the reality is that there are safety concerns for our country. One of the things that came out of a report just last week is that there’s over 2,500 people on the terror watch list trying to get into our country each and every year. Many of them are coming in through these loopholes that we need to fix. Why are we delaying fixing them?
That’s over seven per day trying to get into the United States of America. And yet we’re not doing anything to fix our immigration laws.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you also know that there’s plenty of studies that show that immigrants don’t commit crimes at rates higher than other Americans. And aren’t you worried that an ad like that is going to poison the well for negotiations?
SHORT: George, I think we’ve actually been making progress on the negotiations. I think what’s poisoning the well is the decision to shut down the government and stop paying our troops.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Marc Short, thanks for your time this morning. Thank you, Marc.
SHORT: Thank you, sir.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are joined now by the number two Democrat in the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Thank you for joining us this morning, senator.
Well, you just heard Marc Short right there talking about that not backing away from that ad from President Trump saying that Democrats are complicit, could be complicit in murder.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: I wish Marc would contact Ed Gillespie. He tried that theme in Virginia. It doesn’t work. The American people are not going to accept the premise that immigrants are criminals and that we ought to deport the Dreamers.
You know, what it comes down to is we need a reasonable approach that is mindful of our national security, number one, but embraces a basic value in America. We are a diverse nation, a nation of immigrants, and we’re proud of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about that deal that Senator Schumer reportedly offered to — excuse me, Senator Schumer reportedly offered to the president on Friday: full funding of the border wall in return for no changes in chain migration, no changes in the visa lottery. You just heard Marc Short right there suggest that that wasn’t good enough, that they needed changes in those other provisions.
DURBIN: I can tell you — you can imagine the frustration of Senator Schumer. Invited to the White House on Friday by the president for a luncheon that involved John Kelly and Mike Lynch of Senator Schumer’s staff, Senator Schumer and the president. It went on for almost two hours and there was a basic understanding at the end of it.
It is true that Chuck Schumer made what I considered to be a bold and important concession and said, yes, we’ll go forward with the wall as long as we do this in a responsible fashion. We had a substantial…
STEPHANOPOULOS: $20 billion?
DURBIN: Well, I’m not going to quote numbers, because I don’t think that’s my place to do it, but I can tell you it was a substantial commitment to the president. The president embraced it. And Chuck came back to the Hill. We sat down in his office, and I said I think we’re going to avoid the shutdown. I think we’re ready to go.
Two hours later, a call from the White House says the deal is off. We’re not going to stand by this at all.
How can you negotiate with the president under those circumstances where he agrees face-to-face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So where are things now? Is that the Democrat’s bottom line? No changes in the chain migration, no changes in the lottery?
DURBIN: Look, let me tell you that what I tried to do with Lindsey Graham and four other Senators, two Democrats and two Republicans, was to put together a reasonable, bipartisan compromise when it came to this issue.
Remember, George, the issue of the Dreamers and DACA was created by President Trump on September 5 when he eliminated the program. It isn’t as if we dreamed this up as something to insert into the conversation. They will start losing at 1,000 a day the protection, these DACA young people had, on March 5 because of President Trump’s decision. We’re trying to meet the challenge he sent us. He told us, I’m going to get rid of the executive order, now pass a law. That’s what we’re trying to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is it right to hold the government hostage? You heard Marc Short cite Senator Schumer — here’s what Senator Schumer said back in 2013 during the last government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: It’s sort of like this, someone goes into your house, takes your wife and children hostage, and then says let’s negotiate over the price of your house. You know, we could do the same thing on immigration. We believe strongly in immigration reform. We can say we’re shutting down the government. We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform. It would be governmental chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, aren’t you all creating chaos now?
DURBIN: George, you’ve got to concede one thing, and that is that the Republicans are in control of this government. They control the White House. They control the Senate. They control the House by nominations sent to the court. They basically control the Supreme Court.
We are in a minority position. The Republicans control what comes to the floor in both the House and the Senate.
In the Senate, though, with the 60 vote margin, there’s a need for bipartisanship. That’s all we’ve asked for. Sit down at the table and let us work this out in a bipartisan fashion. That’s what Lindsey Graham and I presented to the president on that infamous meeting on January 11. That’s what Senator Schumer did on Friday, a bipartisan approach to solve this problem. We are still ready and willing to move forward in that spirit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And there are bipartisan talks going on right now around keeping the government open until February 8 in return, as I asked Marc Short about, in return for some kind of an implicit commitment that you’d get votes on your bipartisan deal in both the House and the Senate. Is that coming together? Will the government open tomorrow?
DURBIN: I can’t answer that question directly other than the fact that your premise is correct. There are bipartisan conversations going on right now. I’ve met, as Senator Schumer has, with the leaders of those efforts, Democrats and Republicans, who are in good faith trying to find common ground and put this behind us.
But at the end of the day the president has to step up and lead in this situation. He has to be willing, as Chuck has said many times, to accept yes for an answer. That’s been the breakdown problem we’ve had both on the DACA issue, which the president created, as well as the overall issues, such as children’s health insurance, community health care clinics, funding for our military, all of these things require presidential leadership.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like you don’t think the president is in charge of his own government right now?
DURBIN: I think he’s in charge. But, you know, Chuck, you can’t have an agreement at 2:00 and then a 4:00 phone call saying it’s all off. And that’s what happened this last Friday.
Chuck Schumer went down there in good faith and made what I considered a significant concession to this president for this quixotic quest he has for this wall on the border of our — with Mexico. And despite that effort, two hours later the president’s people called back and said it’s over.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, we have a new tweet from the president this morning, just out about in the last hour. “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our military and safety at the border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. The stalemate continues. Republicans should go to 51%, nuclear option, and vote on real long-term budget. No CRs.” Your response.
DURBIN: My response is this: when it comes down to it, Senator Claire McCaskill offered a unanimous consent request so that there would be no interruption, none whatsoever, in the payment of the men and women in the military in service to our country. Senator McConnell, the Republican senate leader, objected. Now that’s a matter of record. So we don’t want to in any way diminish our commitment to our troops start to finish.
And secondly, let’s get this done on a bipartisan basis. We’ve produced a bipartisan approach to many of these issues. If the president and the leaders in congress will sit down with us, we can resolve this quickly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about that nuclear option, doing away with the filibuster?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers. We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Durbin, thank you for your time this morning.
DURBIN: Thanks, George.