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President Trump Considering A Veto On Spending Bill

NOEL KING, HOST:

Late last night, the Senate approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill - all 2,000 pages of it. But then this morning, President Trump tweeted that he's considering a veto of the plan. He wrote on Twitter, 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. A lot there. Joining us now is Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat of Montana. Thanks for being here, Senator.

JON TESTER: It's great to be with you, Noel. Thank you.

KING: Senator, do you really think President Trump is going to veto this?

TESTER: I don't know. But I can tell you that in - I don't know what he's going to do because he's very hard to predict. But in this border package - I mean, in this omnibus package, there are plenty of border-protection dollars in there. I don't buy his theory that there's not enough for border security in there. I can go through the list. There's 14 billion for Customs and Border Protection. We can hire hundreds of new CBP officers. There's money to recruit and retain existing agents, so the list goes on and on and on. And so I think it's strong on border protection.

Plus, it funds grant programs that allows Customs and Border Protection to be able to develop partnerships with county governments, municipal police departments, highway patrol and the like to get further bang for the buck and develop that synergy on the border. And then the other thing is this. There's a lot of really good stuff for veterans in here. I'm ranking member on the veterans' affairs committee. Everybody out there that's a veteran knows that the VA needs some attention. And this omnibus bill does a lot of really good things for veterans - putting more physicians assistance on the ground, expanding health care for mental health - access to mental health. That list goes on and on and on. And so I don't understand why he's doing this because...

KING: Well, actually, he states quite clearly - he says, you know, the Democrats have abandoned the DREAMers. That's in part why he's considering a veto. What are you thinking about that? Have the DREAMers been abandoned in this bill?

TESTER: Noel, the DREAMers are not addressed in this bill. But a month ago, we had a bill that Senator Rounds and Senator King - a Republican and an independent - put forth that we had enough votes to pass. And I was told the administration came in and influenced members to kill that bill, and that bill died. That bill would've helped solve the issue that the DREAMers have. I was at the meeting that was televised for an hour where the president said, if the Congress passes something, I will sign it. And with two hours later, he had recanted that.

We need leadership from the White House. And it can't just be, well, if you do this, I'll sign it, or well, maybe I won't. Or, gosh, if you don't put a - something in the omnibus, I'm not going to support it. And the fact is is that there hasn't been a lot of leadership from the White House on this issue. This is an issue that Congress and the administration needs to deal with to get solved. And quite frankly, it's a little bit frustrating from my end of things in the legislative branch that the president will say, jeez, you guys didn't fix this, so I'm going to veto it, when he was one of the problems we didn't get it fixed in the first place.

KING: We spoke earlier to Senator Patrick Leahy, your Democratic colleague in the Senate from Vermont. And he sort of said look, Democrats didn't lose out on immigration and border security. And I'm wondering, do you think that's true? I mean, finding a way to protect DREAMers has been a huge priority for Democrats for the past year. And then in this bill, nothing.

TESTER: Well, first of all, I think there's plenty in there for border security. And we're going to need to come on back and address it again and again 'cause it's a long-term issue.

KING: OK.

TESTER: I would also tell you that the DREAMer issue is an issue that we need to find a bipartisan solution for. And quite frankly, it hasn't been there. There's been a lot of bipartisan groups that have worked together, but none that have been able to get us to the 60-vote threshold that's needed in the Senate. And would I have liked to seen different things taken out of this bill and things put into this bill? Of course. Would it have been nice to get get the solution for DACA in this bill? Of course it would.

But I'm not sure if we'd have that solution, the president wouldn't have said, I'm going to veto it because that solution's in there. The problem is is there are plenty of folks here in Washington, D.C. - in the Senate in particular - that are working on this issue of immigration. And every time they get close, they've been undermined. So quite frankly in the end, especially coming from a rural state like Montana, this bill is too important to veto and shut the government down - because it, once again, adds to the uncertainty that's out there right now. And this would really turn things on its head.

KING: Deficit hawks have been cheering this tweet that the president sent out this morning. You know, a lot of people concerned that this bill grows the deficit even more. Are you?

TESTER: Absolutely, unequivocally, I am concerned. I think we need to get our books in order here, and there's no if, ands or buts about it. But unfortunately, there's no talk about pay-fors. There is no talk about being fiscally responsible at this moment in time by the administration or by the folks who control the Senate and the House.

KING: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Jon Tester is a U.S. senator from Montana. He is a Democrat. Thank you so much for joining us.

TESTER: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.