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Sen. Cory Gardner Discusses Likelihood Of Government Shutdown

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right. Let's bring in the voice now of Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. He is a Republican, and he's been working on a bipartisan immigration bill that would help recipients of DACA, that program you just heard Scott Horsley talking about that lets young people in the country illegally stay and work here - that lets young people who came into the country illegally stay and work here. Senator Gardner, welcome to the program.

CORY GARDNER: Good afternoon. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Where exactly have we reached you, if I can ask?

GARDNER: I'm in my office in Washington and hoping - talking to my colleagues about a way forward and how we can provide a solution to what is getting to be a very late hour.

KELLY: Yeah, and you're there on Capitol Hill. What is the mood? Are you all going to get this done?

GARDNER: There is a sense of optimism. There's a sense of frustration undoubtedly. But I think the American people - we owe it to them to bring a solution on funding, to not shut the government down - there's too much at stake, too much collateral damage that can occur if funding does lapse this evening - while we also put ideas in front of our colleagues to address this issue of DACA, the children who were brought here at a very young age through no fault of their own. I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Let's not shut the government down. Let's solve the DACA problem and make America proud of what we can actually accomplish.

KELLY: OK. You say you've got a responsibility to solve this. We have not interviewed anyone - and we've interviewed everybody we can on Capitol Hill. Nobody wants to see a shutdown. However, we're now looking at the clock. It's ticking away. We've got hours left. Let me put this to you. We spoke to your Democratic colleague - this is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine - yesterday. He was among those who told us he doesn't want a shutdown, that Congress is really close to a more substantial spending bill that would cover immigration. I know you want that, too. What is the stumbling block now? Can you put your finger on it?

GARDNER: Well, I think we just have to find what people agree to. And the president made it very clear the four things that he would accept in a solution to address these children - the four things being what he calls chain migration, border security, fixing the DACA situation itself, as well as the diversity visa lottery. We don't have a consensus yet broad enough to get this onto the president's desk in a way that would allow him to sign. So we have more work to do, but we do have time, and I think it's important to note that these conversations continue. I was over in the House of Representatives...

KELLY: How do you have time, though, if I may? We're hours away from midnight.

GARDNER: Oh, yeah, no. What I mean is we have time to fix this challenge. The president laid out a deadline in March. I'd like to see this done sooner rather than later. But the president has said you have until March to do this. We can do this. And that's what I mean we have time. I don't think it's wise to shut the government down. I think we should - we should get our work done funding the government, not putting at risk our military communities and our men and women in uniform, not putting at risk important programs at the CDC. Let's not do that.

KELLY: You're talking about a short-term plan would keep it open a few more days while y'all continue to negotiate.

GARDNER: That's correct. And, you know, only in Washington sometimes does it seem like people who don't like what they believe is a bad idea come up with an even worse idea, which is an even shorter term funding solution. So let's not do that sort of infamous Washington two-step where they take one bad idea, replace it with a worse idea. Let's get together, Republicans and Democrats. I do think we can find common ground on this. There seems to be unanimity in finding a solution for DREAMers. Let's do that, but let's not create the kind of collateral damage that a government shutdown, a lapse in funding, would create.

KELLY: You said the president has been very clear about what he wants on immigration. Democrats and Republicans who we've interviewed this week might differ with that assessment. But let me put that to you directly. Is the president playing a helpful role in the negotiations at this hour?

GARDNER: I think most people who attended the meeting on Tuesday of - was it just last week? A lot has occurred since then - where it was sort of this live broadcast of about 20 members of the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans coming together, walked away with a pretty clear idea of what the president was hoping for, that four-part plan that he expected in order to be able to sign it. Now, obviously the...

KELLY: There was also other meetings last week from which people emerged...

GARDNER: There was. That's right. There certainly was. It made a little bit of news.

KELLY: Somewhat more chaos - yeah.

GARDNER: And a little bit of news that was unfortunate, but I think what we have to do is not let that interfere with our ability to get the job done. We can't let politics - we can't let politics get in the way of accomplishing something very important for our country. And we don't - you know, when it comes to these kids, DREAMers, we don't hold the children, our children, we don't hold them accountable for the acts of their parents. We don't charge our 3-year-old kids with trespass for walking across their neighbor's lawn. So I believe we can find a solution on this. But I'm afraid if there's a lapse in funding, then it's going to pull people further apart. So let's focus on a solution, and I don't think we're that far apart. And so let's not put something that could play politics in the way but concentrate on bringing this solution.

KELLY: Senator Cory Gardner, thanks so much for your time.

GARDNER: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Best of luck with those negotiations Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.