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White House Insists Trump Played Vital Role In Trying To Re-Open Government


The partial government shutdown appears to be coming to an end three days after it began. The breakthrough came when Democrats led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to fund the government until February 8. That's a little under three weeks from now. In exchange, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to take action on immigration. Beyond that, there aren't a lot of details. In a statement, President Trump said he's pleased the Democrats have come to their senses. He says once the government is funded, his administration will work toward a long-term deal on immigration but, quote, "if and only if it's good for our country."

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is at the White House to talk about all of this. Hey, Mara.


MCEVERS: Just first to make sure we know what's happening, where do things stand now?

LIASSON: Where things stand now is that both houses of Congress have passed another short-term funding bill which gives Democrats, Republicans and the president a three-week reprieve. They now have until February 8 to figure out a deal on DACA, which is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This was protection from deportation for immigrants who were brought here as children, many of them illegally.

President Trump has removed that protection, and he gave Congress until March 5 to figure out a solution, or else these DACA recipients would be subject to deportation. If a deal on DACA can't be reached by February 8, according to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, his intention would be to let the issue go to the Senate floor.

MCEVERS: As we look back on these three days, this partial shutdown, I mean, which party comes out of the whole thing a winner?

LIASSON: The White House feels very confident that they won this round. The Trump campaign is already sending around a fundraising email saying Democrats caved. The president's son on Fox today said the shutdown has been good for us. And it's true. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, didn't get that much when he agreed to this deal except for an extension of the Children's Health Program for six years. And a lot of left-wing groups who are part of the Democrats' base agree with the White House. They think Schumer gave in too easily.

But whatever the political victory for the Republicans is, it's probably a short-term one because when the conversation was about shutting down the government on behalf of people in the country illegally, Democrats were losing the debate. But when the conversation turns back to what should be done about DACA recipients, Democrats are on firmer ground because vast majorities of Americans think those young people should have a path to citizenship.

MCEVERS: One of the issues that was reported - that came out that, you know, Democrats and Republicans didn't necessarily know where President Trump stood on this. And Senator Schumer said over the weekend, negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O. I think what - people are wondering why the president wasn't more involved in the conversation.

LIASSON: Well, that's a good question, and the White House was very intent on pushing back against this notion that the president was a kind of bystander and uninvolved in the weekend negotiations over the shutdown. Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look; what the president did clearly worked. The vote just came in 81-18. I would say that those numbers are much more in the president's favor than in Senator Schumer's favor.

LIASSON: So we still don't know exactly what the president wants in a final deal, but we know at least in terms of this particular skirmish the president got a tactical victory. He gets to take credit, which he really likes to do.

MCEVERS: NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House, thanks a lot.

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

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.