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Sen. Tim Kaine On Why He Opposes Stopgap Funding Mechanism For Government

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right, that bill to keep the government open, as we just said - it's now headed to the Senate where Democrats appear ready to block it. And one of those Democrats who may be ready to block it is Tim Kaine. He's a senator from Virginia. He told my co-host Kelly McEvers he will not support this short-term funding measure.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

So I just want to be really clear here. Are you saying that you would rather shut down the government than pass a one-month spending bill?

TIM KAINE: No. There's no reason to shut the government down. If it shuts down, it's only because the Republican majority doesn't want to work on weekends (laughter). What we have is - we're very close to a final deal right now, OK? As you know, the budget year started October 1. We're in the fourth month of the year without a budget. The Republicans said in December, give us another month, and we'll come up with a final deal. And then at the eleventh hour, now they say, well, give us another month, and we'll come up with a final deal.

What we should do is stay here over the next few days and get a final deal. The budget numbers, permanent - the long-term authorization of CHIP, protection of DREAMers, hurricane relief - we've negotiated all these items. There's nothing new to know about them. Rather than letting the Republicans kick it down the - you know, down the way for another month, let's just stay in over the weekend and work it out.

We had the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, come and look us in the eye eight days ago - President Trump's secretary - and said, do not do another continuing resolution. Get to a final budget deal. And that's what we want to do. We ought to stay in over the weekend and get it.

MCEVERS: Well, what if that's not possible? I mean, do you think that's actually doable at this point?

KAINE: It is very possible. We - again, from October 1 till now, there's been this set of negotiations. And instead of just having the backbone to make the decision - and that does include compromise on the DREAMers and on everything else. The Dems have to be willing to compromise and the Republicans, too. But we are very, very close to a deal on all the key points, and we just have to stay at it and force it.

And what the president should ask for instead of trying to blow it up with tweets or bad comments about, you know, the DREAM - the bipartisan DREAMer deal that he encouraged to happen, he should basically say, Congress, stay in town. Find a bipartisan deal, and I will support the bipartisan deal. That's what he should do.

MCEVERS: Do you think most Senate Democrats share your view on this?

KAINE: The overwhelming majority and for a variety of reasons. Some of us are very focused on - you know, we want to make sure that the spending levels are set right for the military and education and transportation priorities, protection for the DREAMers, the Children's Health Insurance Program that the president has gone back and forth about today.

We want to get to a final budget deal. And in this use of - the continuing resolution is just a gimmick. It's a way of saying, well, we can't decide, so let's just drive by looking in the rearview mirror and do what we did yesterday. That's not the same thing as a budget. It doesn't give any of the departments, especially defense - I'm on the Armed Services Committee. It doesn't give them the ability to plan. We need to give them a forward-looking budget, and we have it within our grasp.

MCEVERS: Some of your colleagues in the Democratic Party who've been threatening a shutdown for a while now - Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker - I mean, some of these people are presidential contenders in 2020. Are they seeing too much political advantage here in forcing this issue over DACA?

KAINE: Yeah. Here's what I think. DACA needs a fix. I mean, the first DREAMers bill was introduced in 2001. And the president in September said Congress needs to fix this. Ten days ago he said, you guys reach a bipartisan deal, and I'll sign what you send me. So we've got a bipartisan deal. It will pass, and we should do that.

But I think - look. On - when it comes to shutdown, only Republicans have ever shut down the government. They did it during the Clinton administration. They did it again. And I was in the Senate during the Obama administration. It doesn't work out well. There's no reason to do it. We should just stay at the table until we reach a deal. That's - it's old-fashioned.

The Republicans do need Democratic votes in the Senate, so if there's going to be a deal, they're going to have to listen to us and allow us to participate. The bill that they're putting out today is a bill that they cooked up. And they think if they throw it at us at the last minute, we have to vote yes. No, we don't have to vote yes. We are willing to work on weekends, and we will find a deal that will keep government open but that will come up with a compromise on all these items.

MCEVERS: Democratic Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia, thank you so much.

KAINE: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.