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Republicans Divided Over Trump's Action Barring Immigrants From 7 Countries


Some Democratic lawmakers spent their weekend at major airports, joining protests against the president's executive action. With Congress back in session today, the minority party is trying to keep momentum up by holding more rallies and introducing bills to halt the order. At the same time, a significant number of Republicans have also voiced concerns although most GOP leaders appear to be onboard with what President Trump is doing.

NPR's congressional reporter Scott Detrow is on Capitol Hill. He joins us now. Hey there, Scott.


CORNISH: So as we said here, they joined protests, right? They weren't exactly leading them. So what's going on?

DETROW: Yeah, I think joined is the key word. I mean we've seen protests for several weeks in a row now, but what was surprising about this weekend was how quickly these major protests formed at a lot of airports without any advance planning or top-level organization. And many Democrats were scrambling to be included.

You saw Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and a couple Pennsylvania congressman rush from a formal dinner they were at at Philadelphia to the Philadelphia Airport to join in - looking a little out of place in their tuxedoes and tails. But as the weekend went on, more lawmakers were making a point to be at these protests. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker gave an impromptu speech to protesters at Dulles Airport on Sunday, and CNN recorded that.


CORY BOOKER: And what frustrates me is they are being singled out now simply because of how they have decided to pray and their country of origin. That has to be unacceptable to every American no matter...


DETROW: So these airport protests and appearances by lawmakers continued today. In a little bit, Democrats are holding a big rally across the street in front of the Supreme Court.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, we have been hearing more and more from Republicans at this point. How many? Where are we at?

DETROW: Around 20 congressional Republicans have voiced some form of concern. The majority of Republicans, we should be clear to say, do seem to support the step. But still, around 20 is a notable number because Republicans have really rallied around President Trump ever since he won, and they've been keeping their criticism muted.

Some Republicans like Senator John McCain say that this order is across the board a bad move. Of course, you know, he's been a vocal critic of the Trump administration on a lot of fronts. Most of Republicans who have spoken out against this are saying it's the implementation they have a problem with, that it was too quick, too rash. It needs to be tweaked. You know, that goes against what the White House is saying, that this is something that they consulted with Congress on. But that's not what we're hearing from Republicans here.

I think the most significant voice speaking out against this is probably Bob Corker. He's not the most vocal critic, but he's important because he's the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he said that the order was poorly implemented, especially since it affected green card holders.

CORNISH: Right, and we know the White House has made some tweaks, they say, or tried to clarify on that green card holder issue, right? Meanwhile, there is - with this executive order, we're seeing legal efforts underway to stop it. We're going to hear from Iowa State Attorney General Tom Miller elsewhere in the program. But is there anything else that members of Congress can actually do about this?

DETROW: Well, there's a lot of action on this on the Democratic side. California Senator Dianne Feinstein is introducing two bills responding to this order today. One would outright rescind it. A second would create more congressional input for these types of decisions. This afternoon, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer appealed to Republicans to support those bills.


CHUCK SCHUMER: So many of you know it's wrong. I understand party loyalty. I do. But what this order does is go against the grain - that there are higher values at stake.

DETROW: But to be clear, the chances of this going anywhere are very, very small because Republicans control the Senate, and they control the House. I mean you do have those Republicans who want to see this change go one way or another that we were talking about. But the most important voice here is Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and he's given no indication that he would be open to that sort of vote. So far, both McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have been largely supportive of the executive action.

The one thing you can see - you know, Democrats are going to be rallying at the Supreme Court. Of course tomorrow, President Trump is going to announce his pick for the Supreme Court. I think it's fair to say that this issue will be high-profile during those confirmation hearings and during the public posturing that always happens on both sides when it when a Supreme Court pick is made.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Detrow on Capitol Hill. Scott, thanks for your reporting.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.