ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Joining us now to talk about the week in politics is Erick Erickson of the website The Resurgent and Jonathan Capehart, who's on the editorial board of The Washington Post. Hi, guys.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Hi, Ari.
ERICK ERICKSON: Hi.
SHAPIRO: Let's pick up the conversation about the budget deal that passed in the early hours of this morning. Here's what Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks told me on this program last night. He's a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
MO BROOKS: We're increasing America's risk of suffering a debilitating - underscore that; highlight it; italicize it - debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy that would do great damage to our country and to the people who live here.
SHAPIRO: And yet it passed with many Republican votes. Some of today's headlines include "The New Party Of Big Government," "Republicans Open The Money Spigot," "GOP Deficit Hypocrisy." So Erick, has the Republican Party lost some credibility here on spending?
ERICKSON: Yes, they have. You know, it's somewhat disappointing. I noted yesterday that it would be great if Republicans were conservatives when there was a Republican in the White House, not just a Democrat. And only then were they occasionally conservative.
ERICKSON: Listen. If we raise taxes to a hundred percent, we would still have a debt and deficit problem. And both parties have to get serious about cutting something at some point.
CAPEHART: Well, look. I want to - I agree with Erick, and I want to applaud Congressman Brooks' consistency. We have to remember that when the Tea Party took over the House in the 2010 elections, it was because they were angry about the level of spending coming out of Washington but also the deficits. And, you know, to Erick's point, what we have seen when Republicans have control of the House and the Senate and the White House - all of those concerns about fiscal constraint have gone out the window. Congressman Brooks is absolutely right. The federal government is going to have to deal with this big deficit balloon at some point. It's just a matter of when.
SHAPIRO: Well, what about the role that the Democrats played in passing this bill? Party leadership basically said, we won't vote for this, but feel free to vote your own conscience. And people who are counting on them to fight for an immigration bill felt let down. Jonathan, do you think the Democrats compromise their core principles here?
CAPEHART: Well, look. To Kelsey's report, what's going to happen, particularly in the Senate on Monday, is a debate on immigration. And as she said in her report, what will happen in the House remains to be seen. But I think that the jam that Democrats faced was that there were things in this budget bill that they were fighting for, key priorities that they were fighting for and that they got - an extension now to 10 years of the CHIP program, the Child Health Insurance Program. Community health centers have been funded. Those are just two of the priorities that Democrats had been pushing for for a very long time. So, you know, they didn't get DACA as a part of the budget process this time, but immigration and DACA in particular will be discussed. That is on the table.
SHAPIRO: Certainly in the Senate, less certainly in the House.
SHAPIRO: Erick, what do you think is going to happen in the House?
ERICKSON: You know, this is the difficult thread to try to thread through this needle of immigration for Republicans because there is a bipartisan consensus in the Senate - more than 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, potentially to overcome a veto - that DACA recipients should be given citizenship or a path to citizenship. In fact, Senate Republicans would expand it to more than the 1.8 million that President Trump has said. Problem is in the House, there's still a dispute over whether there should even be a path to citizenship, let alone the number who should get it.
And the Republicans are mostly going to have to rely on Democratic votes. But the more they rely on Democratic votes, the more they make it hard for their base in the Republican Party in the House to go along with it. And Paul Ryan doesn't want to pass something in the House that is majority Democrat without having a majority of Republicans to support it largely because they need every bit of their base to show up in 2018 just to mitigate what is a Democratic wave building.
SHAPIRO: So just briefly, do you each think that by March 5, the DACA problem will be solved as we heard Ryan say?
ERICKSON: (Laughter) I won't hold my breath.
CAPEHART: Yeah, I have to agree with Erick here. This is a problem that's years - that's been years in the making. And the idea that they're going to solve it in three weeks I think is a big leap. The other big problem, Ari, here - to carry on what Erick said, the Republican Party base doesn't like this issue. They don't like DACA. And, you know, video of families being torn apart and people being deported is not going to, I don't think, hurt Republicans in their base, which will then put pressure on Republicans in the House to not go along with any deal, which will then make it impossible for President Trump to come out and support something.
SHAPIRO: I want to talk about the other big political story this week, which was about Rob Porter, White House staff secretary. It's a crucial role at the center of the White House. His ex-wives of course accused him of abusing them, and the White House stood by Porter at least until photographs were made public. This is what President Trump told reporters today.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well. It's a obviously tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House.
SHAPIRO: Trump also pointed out that Porter maintains he is innocent. One question now is whether chief of staff John Kelly will or should suffer any consequences since he may have known about these problems long before Porter left. Erick, what do you think?
ERICKSON: You know, I hate to say I'm at the point where even as a Republican I'm not surprised by stories like this coming from this White House. I do think that there is a serious lack of judgment on the part of staff in that they served the president badly here. The Washington Post actually has done very good reporting on this, and it made very clear the president was kept out of the loop of this. He had no knowledge of it. What's deeply disturbing is that apparently John Kelly was willing to stand by Rob Porter even after seeing the picture. And their White House staff tried to set up Corey Lewandowski, claiming that he's the guy who did this as a smear campaign.
Now apparently there's a relationship between Porter and Hope Hicks. The whole thing has gone off the rails. John Kelly was the guy that Republicans breathed a sigh of relief about and said, you know, he's been brought into the White House to bring some order to the chaos. And it looks like he was a part of the chaos here.
SHAPIRO: That was the narrative - bring order to the chaos. Jonathan, what do you make of the role that he's playing there?
CAPEHART: He's playing a very bad role.
CAPEHART: And his credibility is incredibly eroded. But as we heard from the president's comments there, Ari, the president clearly does not get or care about how big of an issue this is for his White House and for his presidency that a person accused of domestic violence against two - not one but two ex-wives - he has good words to say about that person and nothing to say about the ex-wives who clearly have suffered some form of abuse.
SHAPIRO: Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, thanks very much.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Ari.
SHAPIRO: And Erick Erickson of The Resurgent, thanks for joining us.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF DELICATE STEVE'S "TOMORROW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.