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Democrat Congressman On DACA Fix Omission In Passed Spending Bill


Well, it's Saturday, and the government is still open. That's thanks to a spending bill that was signed into law by the president just hours before a potential shutdown. But there was a scare for some lawmakers after they sent the $1.3 trillion bill to President Trump when he tweeted the following - quote, "I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending bill based on the fact that the 800,000-plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats, not even mentioned in bill. And the border wall, which is desperately needed for our national defense, is not fully funded."

The president eventually did sign the bill but made it clear he was not happy about it. We wanted to know more about the bill, so we've reached out to Joaquin Castro. He's a Democratic congressman from Texas, and he joins us now. Congressman Castro, thank you for joining us.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

MCCAMMON: So this spending bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Some Republican deficit hawks were against the bill because of the price tag. Some Democrats, such as yourself, also voted no. Can you tell us why you were against this bill?

CASTRO: Well, for a few different reasons, but probably most notably is the fact that it had over a billion dollars - about $1.6 billion - to fund a wall and about 600 million of those dollars going to Texas. And I said to my folks back in Texas that I wouldn't support funding a border wall. Most folks in Texas and even more folks in South Texas are against President Trump's border wall. You know, there were some good things in the bill. I agree on education spending, on military spending and in other areas. But on the whole, I just couldn't put my name or a yes vote to a bill that had all this border wall funding and most especially when there was no DREAM act and no relief for the DREAMers who are still living in limbo.

MCCAMMON: What did you think when you saw the president's tweet yesterday that he was considering a veto?

CASTRO: I thought it was very irresponsible because I know the president's position, but remember, this is a president whose party is in control of Congress. He's had weeks or at least days to work with the members of his own party who control the committees who wrote this bill to give his input and to let them know that this is what he wanted or not what he wanted. So to come in after the House has already left town and say that he might veto it, it's just a chaotic way to do governance.

MCCAMMON: I mean, you voted against the bill, but you still think - it's still fair, you think, to criticize him for considering a veto?

CASTRO: Yeah because I think if he was - if it's not what he wanted to see in terms of a spending bill, he had ample opportunity to reach out to people in his own party and shape the legislation. He failed to do that. And at the very last minute that he's coming in and saying, well, I may not be happy with this bill so I may veto it, that's just bad government.

MCCAMMON: As you know, the president has been publicly floating a deal on the so-called DREAMers, the people who came here without documentation when they were young. He said he would offer them protection from deportation in exchange for a border wall and more immigration restrictions. Now the president says Democrats threw DREAMers under the bus by not agreeing to that deal. How do you react to that?

CASTRO: Well, it's hard to take the president seriously on this stuff, You know. And I don't think that many people do because they know how harsh he's been towards immigrants. They know that he ended DACA, that he has ended temporary protected status for different folks from Central American countries and other parts of the world. So it really is - what he's trying to do is invert reality there and I don't think very successfully.

MCCAMMON: Clearly, DACA is a priority for Democrats. Why not just compromise on this issue?

CASTRO: We have been willing to compromise. There have been basically a few what I would consider legislative vehicles that have been bipartisan that are good starting points at least. But every time any of those bills picks up any kind of momentum, the president and the White House seem to squelch any effort. And so that's why I think, in part, there's been no solution.

MCCAMMON: Congressman Castro, the president also criticized the process of passing this omnibus bill. He said it was a massive bill that no one had time to read before voting. We've heard that sort of language from Democrats in the past as well. Do you think that's a fair criticism?

CASTRO: Actually, I do. I think that criticism that the president leveled is very valid. I think there were only about 17 hours from when legislators had a chance to see the bill to when we were expected - in the House, at least - to take a vote on it. You're talking about a $1.3 trillion spending bill that's over 2,000 pages. That is no way to run the United States government.

MCCAMMON: So how do you fix that?

CASTRO: Well, there's got to be a more deliberative process. There's got to be assurances to legislators that you're going to have more time to actually review bills that are that large. So that should be a fix that is fairly easy for the speaker to make.

MCCAMMON: Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, thank you for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.