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Bernie Sanders On Government Shutdown


And now we return to our main story, the government shutdown. Bernie Sanders is the independent senator from Vermont, and he joins us now. Good morning, sir.

BERNIE SANDERS: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You want Republicans to make a deal on DACA, people who are brought to this country illegally as children. But how much of a deal are you willing to make on legal immigration?

SANDERS: Well, I believe that we need comprehensive immigration reform that has to include 800,000 DREAMers, young people who are brought into this country as infants, but it has to go beyond that. But what this shutdown is about is most certainly not just the DREAMers. We are into almost four months of the fiscal year, and Republicans have not yet given us a budget, an annual budget. And this is not the way you run a $4 trillion entity which is called the United States government. Just the other day, the United States Armed Forces, the Pentagon, the secretary of defense said it is impossible for him to do his job. It is responsible. It is wasteful. It is dangerous for the Pentagon if they don't have an...


SANDERS: ...Annual budget. We have got to give it to them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. We can run through who is to blame for this, but I'd rather talk about what the solution is. The sticking points are on immigration. The president wants to change the system. Are you willing to scrap, for example, the visa lottery where 50,000 visas are given out to individuals from countries who aren't represented...

SANDERS: I think we have to look at it in a comprehensive way. But the point right now is just the other day, just the other night, Mitch McConnell understood that he needed 60 votes to continue the - to pass a continuing resolution. And yet he went forward knowing he did not have the 60 votes. So it is time for the Republicans - let's be clear. They control the House. They control the Senate. They control the White House. They've got to sit down and negotiate and understand they can't get everything they want...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. But what are you asking for? What are you asking for, exactly?

SANDERS: What we're asking for is three things. We are asking for an annual budget which will provide equally for defense and nondefense spending. We are asking that months and months after these terrible disasters impacted Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands - that we deal with disaster relief. And we are asking what the American people want. Recent poll had 87 percent of the American people saying that DREAMers should receive, retain their legal status that Trump took away from them. And most of those folks think there should be a path toward citizenship.


SANDERS: That is exactly what we want.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. So what are you willing to give for that? I mean, this is a negotiation...

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, and the president...

SANDERS: Of course, this is a negotiation. What we're willing to give is a lot more money - I am talking not only for myself - but a lot more money for border security, frankly, than I think is necessary. Chuck Schumer, you may have seen the other day, said he's willing to talk about a wall. I think a wall is an absurd idea. But Schumer has thrown that on the table, something that Trump has been talking about from day one throughout his entire campaign.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you're willing...

SANDERS: So there will have...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...To see a wall?

SANDERS: I am willing to spend more money on border security than I am comfortable with. But everything has to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. What I believe that McConnell has got to do right now is to give us three or four days. Let's - leadership sit down and work it out, and I think we could do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: However, there is a vote that has been called for just after midnight tonight presumably to push the Democrats to some kind of agreement. How do you think that's going to play out? We have about 30 seconds left.

SANDERS: I think it will fail because it's continuing to kick the can down the road. And, by the way, let me give you one example of how absurd these ongoing continuing resolutions are. In my state of Vermont, 1 out of 4 people get their primary health care - 1 out of 4 people get their primary health care through community health centers. Twenty-seven million Americans get their care through community health centers. That has not even been re-authorized. We're in the process of seeing the collapse of community health centers all over this country. That has to be dealt with. You got 30,000 vacancies at the Veterans Administration. That has got to be dealt with. Ten thousand people died last year...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bernie Sanders is the independent senator from Vermont. I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Thank you, sir.

SANDERS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIAOU'S "MY PATH TO...") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.