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Republican Rep. David Schweikert Discusses White House's Immigration Framework

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Throughout the show, we will hear both Republicans and Democrats explain what they want to hear from the president tonight. Our next guest is Congressman Dave Schweikert. He's a Republican from Arizona. He's a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and he is on the Ways and Means Committee.

Welcome to the show.

DAVE SCHWEIKERT: Oh, thank you for having me.

MCEVERS: Let's start with immigration. What do you want to hear from the president tonight in terms of immigration policy?

SCHWEIKERT: I'm hoping, actually, a few sentences on the willingness to work on a framework that both deals with everything from DACA to actually a more talent-based system. As you know, we have a demographic difficulty, if not crisis, in the United States. Our birthrates have collapsed. So how do you do a combination of saying, we want an immigration system that I don't care what color you are, what gender you are; what I care about is the talents you bring to the country?

And I think that's actually a much more honest, egalitarian model than one that sort of picks, saying, because you have family members, you get certain benefits; if you happen to win a lottery, you get certain benefits; if you're of a certain population, you get certain benefits. All those sort of choose instead of something that sort of treats everyone fairly.

MCEVERS: Would that package include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients?

SCHWEIKERT: I think, actually, if you normalize populations, there's - always has to be some mechanisms in there, but you never, ever want to sort of create a disincentive for the folks who've followed the rules. Let's say you took DACA populations and said, hey, we're going to normalize your status, and then we're going to allow under the new, refined rule sets that you can actually pursue citizenship if that's what you choose. But here's the path everyone gets to use. So it's sort of egalitarian. Everyone gets treated same.

MCEVERS: I want to talk about infrastructure, as well. The president has, in the past, talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure program. Members of the Freedom Caucus, which you are one, have been concerned about the deficit. For instance, the tax law is to add more than $1.4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. Does the infrastructure plan worry you on the same grounds?

SCHWEIKERT: Infrastructure should be bipartisan. Making the dollars work is Congress' obligation. Be creative. Create dozens of different revenue streams, and make it more efficient to be able to get needed projects and needed repairs out of the ground faster and more efficiently.

MCEVERS: When you talked about dozens of revenue streams, what would those be?

SCHWEIKERT: Everything from selling excess assets, certain energy leases - could you pledge that energy lease? There's lots of examples like that where if you design a mechanism where the benefits of such things go to infrastructure instead of get washed through the general fund, I think it actually makes it easier to move those projects forward.

MCEVERS: You know, both Democrats and Republicans say they want changes to immigration and infrastructure. You know, is there enough overlap here to get bills passed on these issues?

SCHWEIKERT: Oh, absolutely. This is going to be a fascinating thing for the president. Can he give an optimistic tone and move that into the ability to work on immigration, the ability to work on infrastructure and the dozens of other major policies? The hard part is, I think our political bases are so polarized that when there's a perception that a Democrat is working with me, as a more conservative Republican, they get beaten up, and that incentive of - to work with each other is now been taken away by sort of to say the radicalization of our base.

MCEVERS: The State of the Union's supposed to be this time for the president to really set his agenda and his message for the year ahead. President Trump, we have seen, you know, will seem to support one position in conversations with lawmakers and then later criticize that position on Twitter and put forward another one. Does that make your job more difficult?

SCHWEIKERT: In some ways, it does. A twitter post can never capture the complications in complex public policy. It can spark a conversation, but it becomes fairly hollow when you realize many of the things we have to do are complex.

MCEVERS: Congressman Dave Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, thank you so much.

SCHWEIKERT: No, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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