A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
President Barack Obama meets with Central American leaders today on strategies to stem the flow of migrant children to the border. Prospects for immigration legislation grow dim, with congress down to one week before recess. Two federal appeals courts issue conflicting rulings on the affordable care act, setting the stage for further challenges. David Perdue wins the GOP’s senate runoff in Georgia, pitting him against democrat Michelle Nunn in November. The midterm contest could decide control of the senate. And a botched execution in Arizona takes two hours, one of the longest deaths by lethal injection in U.S. history.
- Manu Raju Senior congressional reporter, Politico.
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.
- Chris Frates Investigative correspondent, CNN.
Are Children At The U.S. Border Migrants Or Refugees?
There’s a very specific legal definition those trying to claim status as refugees must meet in the United States–and it’s not clear if children crossing the border from Central America meet it, Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty said Friday.
Watch the full discussion on the issue below.
Is American Democracy At A Turning Point?
With so much political gridlock, a listener during the Diane Rehm Show’s Friday News Roundup wondered whether American democracy had reached a turning point.
Watch the panel discuss the issue below.
Watch Full Video
Watch our panel of journalists as they round up the week’s top U.S. news.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama meets with Central American leaders about the child migrant crisis. Federal courts issue contradictory rulings on Affordable Care Act subsidies. And a botched execution in Arizona renews debate over lethal injections. Joining me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup, Manu Raju of Politico, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, and Chris Frates of CNN.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd since it's Friday, you can watch a live video stream of this program on our website, drshow.org. You can call us on 800-433-8850. If you'd like to be part of the program, send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. MANU RAJUIt's good to be with you.
MR. CHRIS FRATESHi, Diane.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGreat to be here.
REHMNice to see you all. Karen Tumulty, when President Obama meets with these three leaders to talk about the child migrants, what can he get from them, what can he do on his own?
TUMULTYWell, I think there are two big issues right now on the table. One is money. The White House, the administration has requested close to $4 billion to deal with this problem. The Senate has authorized about -- the Senate is working on maybe two-thirds of that much and the House is talking about one-third that much. The other question is whether they are going to rewrite the 2008 law that was signed by President Bush in his final days in office, that essentially allows immigrants from countries that are not contiguous to the United States and not Mexico, not Canada to receive a different kind of due process for their asylum requests.
TUMULTYAnd the Republicans and, I think, even a lot of Democrats and the White House itself a few weeks ago was saying that this law -- that the administration does need to have, if not changes in the law, some flexibility in how it administers it.
RAJUYeah. The House and the Senate are definitely on a collision course here when there are two different packages to deal with this problem along the border, not just, as Karen mentioned, the fact that they are far apart on funding with the House at $1.5 billion and the Senate at $2.7 billion, but the 2008 law is really the flashpoint between the House and the Senate.
RAJUA lot of Democrats in the Senate are very concerned that if you change this law, it's going to make it much harder for child migrants to seek asylum in this country, people who are fleeing violence in places like Honduras, where street gangs are threatening the way of life for millions of people in those regions.
RAJUSo the question is what do you do now. And the Senate Democrats don't want to touch that law. They think the president has the executive authority to deal with deportation cases and move them more quickly through the proceedings and Congress does not need to act. But the Republicans say there needs to be some change, some policy change, otherwise we're just throwing money at a problem that's going to continue to fester.
REHMBut Chris, can't the president, on his own, allow those migrants to stay here, to issue an executive order to allow them to stay?
FRATESAnd that's exactly the Democrats in the Senate's argument here is that we want to allow the president to use the existing law to make those changes. We don't need to make those changes. But the overarching argument here, particularly from House Republicans, is they need some kind of policy change to convince a lot of the conservatives, who don’t want to do anything.
FRATESI mean, many of the conservatives in the House don't want to move on any kind of immigration bill and they say it's the president's mess. Let him fix it himself. We shouldn't help him at all. That's the conservative wing House leadership that's saying, well, no, we need to do something. They're particularly afraid that if they don't do anything and we come up on August recess, where there's a month here where the president has the bully pulpit, the president can control the message about the obstructionist House, how they don't want to solve our problems.
FRATESAnd that could hurt them going into the election year because remember, House Republicans didn't want to deal with immigration at all. I mean, they didn't take it up. They didn't take up a piecemeal package like they promised they would after the Senate passed its comprehensive bill last year. This is an issue that's anathema to most of House Republicans. They don't want to deal with it.
REHMSo meanwhile, what has Gov. Rick Perry done?
FRATESWell, he has taken 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. And what's interesting about that is it's mostly a symbolic move by Perry. These aren't -- these National Guard troops aren't going to arresting people coming over the border. They are simply going to be referring and deterring, as they say, which is, you know, deterring -- they're trying to deter folks from coming over by amassing these National Guard troops.
FRATESAnd they're referring them, once they do come over, to Border Patrol where they'll be taken and processed.
TUMULTYYeah. I was really struck, though, at Rick Perry's announcement the other day because he almost didn't mention the child migrants at all. He portrayed this as a move to deal with drug trafficking and he talk about the, you know, 700,000 crimes that have been committed since 2008 in Texas by the illegal immigrants. You know, it was sort of -- he was talking about a completely different problem than the one that everyone else is talking about this summer, which was -- not only was that striking, but I also talked to some senior Republican legislators in Texas and they are not happy about this because Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, they are leaving office.
TUMULTYSo essentially, they are calling up the National Guard and they are going to be leaving it to the legislature to figure out how to pay for this. They're not gonna even be around when the bill comes due.
RAJUYeah, and I think it's -- the 2016 politics of this is very interesting as well. I mean, Rick Perry is considering another run for president. And remember, when he ran in 2012, he ran as almost a moderate on immigration. There was instate tuition for undocumented immigrants that he was supportive of in that state. So he was running to the left of Mitt Romney and he made that infamous remark that he said, you know, to the critics of that proposal, he said, well, I don't think you have a heart.
RAJUAnd the conservatives really latched onto that. That really hurt his presidential hopes at that time. And now, he's taking a much firmer line on this issue and it shows that if he does run again, which it looks like that he will, he's gonna try to use this, show himself as a immigration hardliner at a time when the Republican base is in line with that issue.
REHMBut meanwhile, don't you have many of these children showing up in various states, Virginia, Maryland, for example, Chris?
FRATESOh, absolutely. And it's become a problem for many state governors because in Maryland it was an issue, in Virginia it was an issue and that’s something that the states are having to take control over. And Perry's trying to display some power here and say, look, I am taking a proactive approach at my border and I'm trying to make sure that these children don’t come across.
FRATESAnd it's a harder line, but I think, you know, it plays well in place like Iowa, but it doesn't really solve the problem. And to Karen's point, it's $12 million a month to deploy National Guard on the Texas border. There's no plan for that. I mean, so you can also see in a presidential debate situation where people say, well, where is the fiscal conservatism then.
REHMSo how are these states where these young kids are being transported, how are they reacting?
TUMULTYIn totally different ways everywhere you look. And mind you, too, when you talk about law enforcement, these kids are turning themselves in. So this is not a situation of arresting them. They come across the border and turn themselves in. At that point, they become either, you know, the responsibility of charitable groups. The federal government has informed the governors that they may be sending some of them to federal facilities.
TUMULTYBut it was really interesting last week. I was in Iowa with Chris Christie and Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa, has said absolutely, no. We are not bringing them to Iowa because, you know, they're breaking the law and we don’t want to encourage more people in Central America to put their kids on this dangerous journey. And Chris Christie said, you know, I agree that this is a horrible thing, but I think we need to look at this on a case by case basis.
TUMULTYSo I think the different states are going to end up in very, very different places on this.
REHMAnd some of these children really have parents here already.
RAJUYeah, that's been the real heartbreaking thing about this 'cause folks are trying to get their kids and reunite them with their families, which is why the concern over changing this 2008 law because what that law allows kids to do from those noncontiguous countries is to seek actual -- get in front of an immigration judge and have their day heard in court.
RAJUAnd the concern is if you change that law, these kids who want to reunite with their parents may not be able to do just that.
FRATESAnd just to piggyback on what Manu was saying, remember, that law passed unanimously back in 2008 and it was largely targeted at many of these children were coming across and they were victims of sex trafficking and sex crimes. So it was an opportunity to let them air their case about why they fled the country that they came from and to have a full hearing on that.
FRATESAnd so there's some concern that if you shorten that, then these kids won't be heard and they'll be thrown back into a dangerous situation.
REHMBut, you know, Karen, you mentioned Iowa. I heard some residents of Iowa say, we've got enough room here. We can take these kids in.
TUMULTYYes. And the Gov. Branstad has come under a lot of criticism for his kind of hard-line stance. But then, at the same time, you have cities and towns all over the country in places like Texas and elsewhere that are passing local ordinances to preemptively announce that they don't want to, you know, take kids in their city. There was a rumor going around in South Carolina that some of them were coming there so Gov. Nikki Haley very -- made a big point of calling up the Department of Homeland Security and so it's complicated.
REHMKaren Tumulty of The Washington Post. We'll talk about the domestic fallout on this immigration policy and remember, you can see all of our guests on our live video stream, drshow.org.
REHMAnd back to the issue on child migrants in the Friday News Roundup. A tweet from Ann. "Please explain the reason for distinguishing between contiguous and noncontiguous countries in the 2008 Immigration Bill in the first place?
FRATESAnd that was the child sex trafficking I was talking about a little bit earlier. The idea was that if you are coming so much further to flee than you might be fleeing something. They had trouble with sex trafficking and they wanted to give people who were fleeing to the United States the ability to make that case. And that was going to be different than, you know, people who could come across the border more easily in Mexico or Canada.
REHMAnd the tweet from Lindsay, "Where is the line between the children as migrants and calling them refugees? What's the difference?"
TUMULTYThere is a very specific legal definition of what a refugee is. And a refugee is somebody who is being persecuted in their country because of who they are, because of their race, because of their religion, because of a political position that they take. And it is far from clear whether these kids who are fleeing kind of generalized violence would qualify under the legal definition of what a refugee is.
TUMULTYYou know, a lot of people argue that the most complicated and yet longest most important solution to all this is making these countries more sane and safe places, which is something that we did in cooperation with Colombia back in the 1990s when some of these same conditions were prevailing. But again, that's the thing that nobody's talking about.
REHMIt costs money.
TUMULTYIt costs a lot.
RAJUYeah, and the administration is weighing exactly how to deal with each of these Central American countries.
RAJUHonduras, for instance, is something that they're considering giving refugee status for those kids who are fleeing given the street gangs in that country. So we'll see exactly how the administration deals with it. It's probably one of the issues that will come up when the president meets with the leaders of the Central American countries.
REHMAnd Manu, what's the fallout for the president from all of these foreign policy crises?
RAJUYou know, it's going to hurt his approval rating, I'm sure, because A. when the public sees the constant effort to respond to crises internationally and at the Southwest border, typically these things take a hit on the presidential standing. You know, that's been kind of the frustration with the president throughout his second term. He's had to respond to one crisis, one international incident after another. Really has not been able to push any sort of domestic agenda at a time when congress is gridlocked and when he's had to kind of keep, you know, flying by the seat of his pants to deal with these various issues.
RAJURight now the president's approval rating is at 43 percent. And when you look historically in the gallop polling it says that when a president is under 50 percent, typically he loses on average 36 seats in the House in that midterm election season. So if these incidents keep happening and the president grows less and less popular, it's going to hurt him in the midterms come November.
REHMAnd in the meantime, more criticism because he's out at fundraisers, Chris.
FRATESWell, that's right, Diane. And I think the way that the White House looks at this is that, you know, they have always been pretty reticent to allow anything to knock the president off his schedule, whether it's world events, whether it's fundraising. And, you know, their explanation to that was, you know, sometimes it's not good to run back to the White House when there's a crisis. They did everything they could to show that he was dealing with it. He was making calls to foreign leaders on Air Force One.
FRATESHe went into the den of one of the homes where he was holding a fundraiser to hold a secure conference call with his national security leaders. The White House let everybody know that the president's still working on the road. And part of that reason, Diane, is that one of the only things the president can do right now for Democrats is raise money. He can raise millions of dollars at one of these fundraisers.
FRATESIn fact, there was a story in the Washington Post today about the Democratic National Committee. The president has 18 fundraisers for them and knocked their debt down 80 percent since February.
FRATESSo he's raising millions of dollars at a time. Now, of course Republicans are going to criticize him...
FRATES...but vulnerable Senate Democrats in particular don't want to be seen campaigning with him. So this is kind of one of the few ways he can help.
TUMULTYBut I think the real question that the president is up against here is whether he was asleep at the switch on this. Because now the White House argues, well this didn't -- for instance the situation on the border didn't become a crisis until May. That is not what charitable groups say. That is not what members of congress say. That is what -- there's a lot of evidence that this problem has been building for quite a while, that the administration did not do anything about it in part -- and again, the Washington Post had a big story on Sunday -- in part, a number of people said because they were afraid it would jeopardize the overall cause of immigration reform. And now, you know, they are paying for it.
TUMULTYAnd it's the same kind of critique that has been lodged against this administration for not seeing ISIS coming in Iraq. And, you know, again in a number of other areas. It's really their competence that's being called into question.
RAJUYeah, and that's what's a problem with this border package right now. I mean, the president just proposed this $3.7 billion package when people in congress were calling for a supplemental funding bill as early as this spring. So this is something that's been hanging out there for a while. The administration acted late. And now we're in the thick of an election season where even moderate Democrats, people who are up in these tough red states in the Senate don't want to take a tough vote that can be used against them.
RAJUAnd the House Republicans have little incentive to compromise when they see their chances of winning more seats in the House and taking back the Senate too. So the president in the White House are taking a lot of criticism for not acting much more quickly on this.
FRATESAnd real quickly, they are maybe one event away from a Katrina moment. You remember President Bush was on a west coast swing for two days before the storm hit. He was approaching. He didn't change his schedule. That looked like a terrible mistake in 2020. If that happens to this White House now and there's one more thing where the president's out and about, he's on vacation, he's fundraising, it's going to look very bad for him because of everything that's come before.
REHMAnd one more area where there is certainly a lack of compromise, the Affordable Care Act where two appeals court rulings totally contradictory, but...
RAJUYeah, it was really a wild day on Tuesday. You really don't see two appeals courts rule on the same exact issue within hours of each other and then go the opposite directions and an issue as big as this, like Obamacare, but they did. And it really has to do with the idea of whether or not the law intended to give subsidized coverage through the federal health care exchange. Now there are about 36 states right now that have refused to implement their own state-based exchanges, these marketplaces where people can buy their insurance online.
RAJUAnd so the federal government has come in and imposed this the federal exchange. The question is whether or not the legislation was -- the debate in the courts right now is whether or not the congress -- you know, you can look at the congressional intent or the actual straight reading of the legislative text. And when you look at the straight reading of the legislative text, it says that -- it suggests that the only...
RAJUExactly. It suggests that only states -- people who do sign up through the states can get their subsidized coverage. But congressional intent suggests something different and that's the way that the Virginia appeals court went. So now the question will be whether or not -- what happens on appeal. The administration is appealing the D.C. circuit ruling. And if the D.C. circuit ruling -- the full panel on the D.C. circuit sticks with the three-judge panel, then this could go to the Supreme Court. And this could really strike at the heart of the law.
REHMIs that what you expect to happen?
FRATESI expect that will happen. I expect that with two separate rulings the whole panel will have to take it up. And I think there's a very good chance this ends up at the Supreme Court. And the thing to remember about this, Diane, is the reason that it only says states is because during this health care debate, which I covered intensely, they were jammed at the end. They didn't have the votes. Remember this passed with only Democratic votes. And so they didn't have the ability to go back and make some of these technical changes, to clean things up, to make sure that the language was tight.
REHMKaren's laughing as you're talking.
TUMULTYWell, I was just thinking about a tweet that Michael Shirer of Time Magazine sent out as these rulings were coming down. He tweeted, just kids this is a reminder, check your work before you turn it in.
FRATESAbsolutely. And I think part of what the Obama Administration underestimated was the court challenges that would come. And they said, well things have always been challenged. Social Security was challenged, Medicare was challenged and we won.
REHMYeah, but there's a question here as to whether that was deliberately written ambiguously.
TUMULTYI don't think so. I think it was sloppy draftsmanship. And it was also they were operating on the assumption at that point that the states would set up their own exchanges. They were giving them a lot of money to do it. They were giving them a lot of guidance. The assumption was every state would want to do it their own way. Well, they just totally underestimated.
REHMOkay. So what does this mean both short term and long term for the Affordable Care Act?
RAJUWell, the government says that folks who want to get subsidies still can get subsidies. So it does not affect anything right now. The long term implications are unclear because, you know, by 2016 it's estimated at about 7.3 million people will be getting some sort of subsidized health care coverage. I mean, that’s about 62 percent of the enrolled population by that time. And, you know, we're talking about $36 billion in subsidies that'll be going out to these millions of folks.
RAJUSo if people cannot get the subsidies through those 36 states who have refused to enact their state-based exchanges, some of these families may decide, why should I continue with my health care coverage? Does it make sense for me financially? I should just take the hit, take the penalty that's imposed on me every year, because that's going to be less costly for me and my family. And if they make that decision, that can really strike the goal of the law which is to expand affordable health care coverage across the country.
FRATESIt really does cut at the individual mandate, this idea that everybody has to carry coverage. And if people look at the penalty and say, I'll pay a penalty because it's less than what I'll have to pay for an unsubsidized premium, the market may collapse. And just to give you an idea, Diane, the White House says that the subsidies are reducing premiums on average from $346 a month to about $82 a month.
FRATESSo that's a huge amount for a family.
FRATESAnd you can see why they would choose to say, well, I'm just not going to get coverage if it's going to cost me $350 a month.
REHMWell, but here's where Republicans are on kind of trick ground, aren't they? They're praising the D.C. appeals court ruling but aren't they out to save money as well?
TUMULTYYou know, this has been the kind of contradiction the whole way through. I mean, all of these states that have turned down the Medicaid money to expand their Medicaid Programs, it was essentially a gift from the federal government. It was certainly something their hospitals wanted to see because they treat a lot of people now for free. And it's just that the opposition to this law, particularly in conservative states, and the mistrust of the law and just the, you know, ideological opposition to the law is still so strong. And no one would've predicted, I think, that this would still be raging like this.
REHMKaren Tumulty of the Washington Post and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Karen, the House recently passed a highway funding bill. So where do we stand now?
TUMULTYYeah, hot diggies.
TUMULTYCongress passes legislation...
FRATESShort term fix.
TUMULTYYes. At this point, they're -- you know, the highway trust fund is going to start running out of money within a month. So -- and there really is not much of a sign that the House bill -- the Senate has a proposal to increase the gasoline taxes which funds the highway trust fund. This is something that has not been since the early 1990s. And the House bill, it's a temporary extension. They would transfer $10.9 billion from elsewhere. There is no sign of an agreement. And so there is a real question of whether we're going to see a lot of infrastructure spending slowing down in August.
TUMULTYWe're talking about 700,000 jobs tied to this kind of spending. And again, it is once again the story of Washington, in this case rit small. It's just, you know, they cannot agree on anything.
RAJUYeah, the Senate will accept this $10.9 billion short term fix. You know, it is a short term fix. It'll only go through next May. But this has been -- ever since 2008, Congress has constantly punted on how to deal with the overhaul of the highway trust fund. This is an issue that is a big problem because the needs of states are growing. They're growing more expensive. And people are driving more fuel-efficient cars. So the gasoline tax is not as valuable as it once was. There's a yawning gap about how much revenue is coming in and how much is going out.
RAJUSo in -- you add to that the steadfast opposition of Republicans to raising taxes at any cost, that it makes it very difficult to get a deal on exactly how to replenish this trust fund. And so when we come back next May they're going to have to deal with this issue again.
REHMSuppose another bridge collapses in the midst of all this, Chris?
FRATESYou know, Diane, I'm not confident that that would even get this congress to act because we saw that happen. And they still didn't pass a five-year plan. I mean, that's kind of a minimum to be able to plan these big highway projects to redo bridges, to resurface roads. And we still didn't see that. And just to give you an idea, last year $37 billion was taken into the highway trust fund and $50 billion was spent. So that's a $13 billion deficit just last year because the needs are so great. The gas tax hasn't been increased since 1993.
FRATESSo as Manu pointed out, you have more fuel-efficient vehicles using less gas. And when you adjust for inflation it's pennies on the dollar for what we used to get in terms of revenue. So you either need to come up with -- bite the bullet and raise the taxes or you need to come up with a new way to fund it, whether that's miles driven instead of a gas tax. But there needs to be new revenue to fund the infrastructure that is over 50 years old now.
REHMSo are we going to get anything?
RAJUIt depends on how -- what happens in the midterms because we'll get -- what we will get is something through May. But a long term fix is not going to happen this congress. But if the Republicans come back and they take control of the Senate, they will have a much greater chance to dictate exactly how they want to write a highway bill. And then the question will be whether they can keep their coalition together and get the White House onboard.
REHMAll right. Manu, quickly tell us what happened Tuesday in Georgia.
RAJUOh, there was a very important runoff election involving one of the most important Senate races in the country. David Perdue, a Republican businessman who's a former Dollar General CEO, former Reebok CEO. He barely won this race against Jack Kingston, 11-term congressman. And it was a big surprise in the political world because Kingston had the support from conservatives, from the establishment, from the Chamber of Commerce. And the polls...
REHMAnd why is this race so important?
FRATESControl of the Senate hangs on it. This was a Republican state. Democrats think with Michelle Nunn they have a chance to flip it. She is the daughter of the former governor there. And it's one of the few pickup opportunities Democrats have. It's going to be a tight race. And if Republicans can't hold that, it's going to be very difficult for them to take control of the Senate.
REHMChris Frates, investigative correspondent for CNN. We'll take a short break here. Remember, you can see all of our guests live streaming on video, drshow.org. Right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to our Friday News Roundup. In this hour we are video streaming live so if you'd like to see our guests, go to drshow.org. And let's go first to Michael in Durham, N.C. You're on the air.
MICHAELThank you for taking my call.
MICHAELI wanted to discuss the issue of the Central American children, and it seems with the discussion among politicians and pundits and even people phoning in that nobody wants to recognize our responsibility to them, which is our support for dictatorships in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries, which led to extreme inequality. And the more recent history, the Reagan Administration supporting death squads of dictatorships in the 1980s or in the civil wars. The lead to (word?) violence and just social dislocation which have led our regional neighbors to become failed states.
FRATESWell, I think the caller raises a great question. And I don't think that we are not looking out for our neighbors. I think when you look at, as Karen mentioned earlier in the show, what we did with Colombia to try to rebuild them. We give lots and lots of aid to Mexico. We've been trying to help build their economy for years. It's not easy, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, to necessarily -- just because you give money and support to see a nation, you know, pull itself up by its bootstraps.
FRATESSo even when you're helping -- and certainly the caller raises a good point, that we and our foreign policy has been mixed in terms of, you know, over the last few decades. But even in the most recent support we've given them, it's not necessarily a slam dunk that these countries are going to be able to become places where people want to stay.
TUMULTYAnd there's also the question that our country is a big market for their drug traffic.
REHMSure. Let's go to Bruce in Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi there, you're on the air.
BRUCEHello, Diane. You are a treasure. Thank you so much for everything.
BRUCEMy comment is this. I hear the talking heads all the time speak about congress doesn't act, won't act and so on. I have one comment and one comment only. The only part of congress that will not act is the Republican Party. I have never witnessed such outrageous irresponsibility in my 58 years.
REHMWhat do you think, Chris?
FRATESWell, I think you can make the argument that the Democratic Senate has also not acted on a number of issues that are important to both the president and to Republicans. I don't -- having been up there I could not agree with the caller that it's only Republicans who haven't acted.
REHMAt the same time you have to go back historically to the early statements made by leading Republicans that we will do everything to make sure this president fails.
TUMULTYBut look, the members of congress who were elected by the Tea Party in particular in the 2010 election were sent here specifically to stop things, not to pass things. I mean, the safest vote in a lot of -- and particularly in Republican politics is often no. And guess what? A lot of people think that's a good thing.
RAJUBut, you know, compromise is a dirty word in Republican primary politics. And it's forced a lot of senators who, you know, have the -- you know, who have long reputations of cutting deals and being open to cutting deals to not really want to do that when they're in the middle of the heat of a primary campaign and where they're threatened to be primaried on the right.
RAJUBut even Democrats too, as Chris was mentioning, I mean, in the Senate, you know, Harry Reid has not -- has really no desire to put controversial bills on the floor to force his guys who are in tough races to take tough votes. There's not much desire because he doesn't think the Republicans will compromise with him. But he's not necessarily trying very hard either because he doesn't want to put any of his guys at risk. So...
REHMSo gang, what does all this say about our democracy? Does it continue to work or not?
FRATESWell, I think Chuck Schumer got to this question earlier this week when he floated the idea of an open primary...
FRATES...and that maybe we can take some of the extremes out of these primaries by opening up to everybody and not just registered Democrats or registered Republicans.
REHMWe did a show on that yesterday. And the overwhelming conclusion was a better way to go is a single primary day so...
FRATES...a jungle primary like California.
REHMWe'll see. All right. Let's go to Joanna in Kerrville, Texas. You're on the air.
JOANNAHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
JOANNAI want you to know that I think you're wonderful.
JOANNAMy comment is pretty simple. I just wanted to say it's about the children coming up from Mexico. At the governors whose hearts are so cold towards them should be ashamed of themselves. And they're taking a stance against them for purely political reasons it seems like. And forgetting the fact that these are human beings who are suffering and coming to us as a country who was founded upon the principle of taking people in who have nowhere else to go.
JOANNAI used to be proud of us as a country for being a place that would do that, to take in the people who are sick and the wounded. But now I don't feel that that's really our true goal anymore. And I think we've gotten a long way from what we ought to be.
REHMParaphrasing the Statue of Liberty.
RAJUYeah, I mean, this speaks to just how emotional of an issue this is. And the immigration issue is generally -- you know, you have, you know, a division between folks who really feel a concern and have a lot of compassion from folks who are coming into this country and want a better way of life. But then you have people who say that, you know, people -- there is an immigration system for a reason. And people who want to come here should access that system legally. So this is not an issue that has been resolved because of just how emotional it is.
REHMAll right. To George in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
GEORGEHi, how are you? Thanks so much for taking my call.
GEORGEI just -- I hope that -- just got two comments. One, I think there's a difference between saying both Republicans and Democrats aren't doing anything. I think if the Democrats asked the Republicans, let's work on a particular issue or a particular -- let's do something, we know the Republicans will say no. The Republicans only ask the Democrats to agree with them. They don't ask to work with them.
GEORGEAnd my second comment, which I noticed I guess about after the second or third years of Obama's being elected was that it seemed to me that the Republicans will do -- want to cause disruption. They want to cause harm to this country because they know that there's a good chance that the Democrats and Obama will be blamed for it. It doesn't matter what the source is. He's president, he takes the blame.
RAJUWell, the Republicans wouldn't agree with the caller but, you know, the argument -- you hear similar arguments from the Senate Democratic leadership who say that the reason why the Republicans are showing dysfunction is they want to pin it on the Senate. The reason why we don't want to cut a deal with Democrats is because then it'll look like Washington is working and that'll hurt our election hopes. But, you know, I think that argument is a little too simplistic. There's certainly blame to be cast on both sides.
TUMULTYWell, and I think this ignores the fact that the basic Republican philosophy is that government is too big, that it does too much...
TUMULTY...and people pay too much in taxes. So this is -- I mean, it's...
REHMYou've got an ideological split...
REHM...right down every single issue we're dealing it.
TUMULTYIt is -- yes, it is an absolute ideological disagreement. And we're seeing -- that's what we see played out every day.
REHMAnd that's why I'm asking, is our democracy at a turning point?
FRATESWell, I think so. And I think that when you -- the other thing is that our government is run by people. And if you look at who's leading right now, you know, the president has never had the best relationship with Capitol Hill. When you talk to Democrats on Capitol Hill they'll tell you that. And Republicans will tell you that. And there's not strong working relationships to help get things done. And you saw that during the fiscal cliff.
FRATESI mean, John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, went to talk to Barack Obama multiple times. It wasn't as if it was a my way or the highway. And they just couldn't get it together. Now the White House likes to say, well Boehner can't keep his soldiers in line and he's a weak leader, but Republicans will say to you, well neither can Harry Reid. And he can't put up many of his vulnerable Senate Democrats to take tough votes either. So he's protecting them.
REHMDon't forget that John Boehner did reach agreement with the president and then went back to his own people and it was undone.
RAJUIn a lot of ways, I mean, this shows how ungovernable the House is these days. In the days when there used to be pretty strong leaders, Nancy Pelosi was able to keep her people in line, Tom DeLay who's a very strong leader in the House. This is a completely different Republican conference that does not take marching orders from their leadership. It makes it much harder for them to keep their folks in line.
REHMAnd talk about another system that doesn't seem to be working. A two-hour period toward death, a botched execution in Arizona on Wednesday has now led to temporary halt in all executions there. I received an email this morning from Deseret. She's a veterinarian in Phoenix, Ariz. She says, "Lethal injection is widely utilized in veterinary medicine as an accepted method for humane euthanasia."
REHMShe says, "Physicians are not trained and very few have any experience in performing humane euthanasia." She does mention that "doctors are prohibited from being present therefore," she goes on to say, "it makes sense to me to use veterinary medicine as a model for lethal injections used to carry out the death penalty. If this has not been explored, why not?"
FRATESWell, I don't know much about veterinary medicine but I do know that part of the problem we're seeing now is that many of the drug companies that were making the cocktails for lethal injections started to come under scrutiny when anti-death penalty advocates realized who these companies were. They were starting to raise awareness. They were boycotting and some of those companies, you know, stopped selling to states that were doing lethal injections. Some of those companies were European countries -- European companies where it's illegal to do the death penalty.
FRATESSo now states have passed laws where they are shielding who is making these chemicals.
FRATESAnd they are now going to different sources for the chemicals. They're being compounded differently and we're starting to see the problems. This is the third case we've seen where there has been a botched execution. One was in Oklahoma and the other one was in Ohio.
FRATESSo this is becoming a problem and death -- arguments now are being made by folks who are on death row that they should be granted a stay because of these problems.
REHMIt's interesting, NPR's Morning Edition had a super piece this morning on the history of capital punishment from hanging to the electric chair to lethal injection and how there are always botched up executions. I find myself wondering whether this latest one is going to lead to a wholesale review of capital punishment. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Hedgesville, W.V. Hi, David, you're on the air.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane.
DAVIDI had a comment on this issue, that if we can cleanly, humanely euthanize grandma in Oregon, but we can't kill brutal murderers humanely, there's something wrong. But my main comment...
DAVID...my main comment had to do with our obligations in Central America that one of your previous callers mentioned, that we do have obligations. We went in there last century, sent in the Marines to protect Chiquita Banana basically. So we do have an obligation in Central America but our main obligation is to get rid of -- or demand the people that use the drugs should -- we need to crack down on that, either decide to make it legal and license people to be able to use drugs or keep it illegal. But I would recommend like a 10 percent of the gross worth fine for people that use these drugs that fund these gangs that cause the problems in the first place.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. Any comment, Manu?
RAJUYeah, I mean, that's part of the issue too. How do you get in -- you know, these countries are neighboring countries. These are places that we have a long history involvement with. How -- you know, you can't just turn a blind eye and send all these kids back. You have to deal with it in a humane way.
RAJUParticularly when folks raise legitimate concern for some of the things that the United States has done certainly has contributed to the crisis down in those regions.
REHMTo Kathy in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Hi, you're on the air.
KATHYGood morning, Diane. How are you?
KATHYI think hearing about so many of these children's stories, it is heartbreaking that they are driven for this dangerous journey to our country. But on the other hand we have children hungry here. But why can't we set up refugee camps in their countries and have the UN involved and maybe start cracking down on the crime that drives them here?
FRATESYou know, that...
KATHYIt would be safer for them, you know.
FRATESThe caller raises a good point and one that I think hasn't been talked about too much on Capitol Hill. And I think, you know, part of the problem here, Diane, is that this is what you get when you don't do full scale immigration reform, is you have these hotspots that pop up and then you have to deal with them in a piecemeal way. Instead of saying, well let's create a much saner way to deal with these problems that are more systemic.
FRATESAnd until congress and the president can get their act together and talk about this, and in this case it's House Republicans talking about, you know, some kind of immigration reform, you're going to continue to see these kinds of problems consume the nation for a while, go back underground and then pop up again.
TUMULTYAlthough the last time we did comprehensive immigration reform in 1986 when there was a very large amnesty, it was followed by a very large flood of more illegal immigrants. So, you know, that is the -- so what we've really seen in the large political sense from this is that a number of polls are now showing that public support for a path to legalization for the 11 million illegal immigrants who are in this country now, has dropped significantly as we have watched this crisis on the border.
RAJUYeah, that's been the concern from the Republicans that say, if you do an immigration reform, it'll invite more people in. And that's why you've seen conservatives go after the president's 2012 deferred action program helping young people who are brought to the country illegally. They say that that has given people false hope that they can get the same thing in the future.
REHMLast word. Manu Raju of Politico, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, Chris Frates of CNN. Thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. Have a great weekend everybody. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
What President Trump's anti-immigrant policies may mean for the future of the GOP, then why some say Apple should help parents limit teen's time on iPhones
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank explains some of the challenges ahead for 'Trump Tax,’ then singer songwriter Dar Williams talks about what she’s learned from a career of performing in small towns across America.
What the Alabama Senate race means for Republicans and Democrats, then dealing with sexual misconduct claims against members of Congress and President Trump.