The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, that aired on Nov. 26, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the senior Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET: Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, when Congress comes back from this break, they have a lot of work to do. I understand you are part of a small group who has worked during the break on this very tough issue regarding the US border, and President Biden's requests for about $14 billion to help with it. Where do talks stand now?
SEN. BENNET: Well, I think the really important thing that there's broad bipartisan support for in the Senate right now, is that we've got to get the recognition-we've got to get the Ukraine funding done as part of this package, we got to get the Israel funding done, the humanitarian funding done, and the funding for Southeast Asia as well. There are some Republicans who have said that in order to do that, in order to have that vote, they want to see something done on the border. And I think we have had good conversations over the last several days. And before that, tried to see if we can get to some sort of solution. I believe, of course, that the Ukrainian people have earned a vote to support them without a negotiation on the US border, but there are others in the Senate who feel differently and we're trying to see if we can get to a solution.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you mention that because as I understand it, the indication in the Republican held House is that border needs to be bundled with Ukraine aid in order to get it through. Is that still the case?
SEN. BENNET: That is what, yeah, that is still the case from the House. I mean, when you think about what the- the courage of the Ukrainian people has meant for humanity, it really has been extraordinary. They have taken back over half the territory that Putin took from them, they have rendered the Black Sea Fleet. Putin's Black Sea Fleet can't do what- what they tried to do. So, the grain you were talking about, it was Cindy McCain, is actually going out because of what the Ukrainian people did. And now the United States, I think, has an obligation to continue to support them in this fight, not just for Ukraine, but a fight for democracy. And I don't know whether the House will come to the conclusion that that's enough for them. So, we're continuing to see if there's something we can do on the border. My- my view is, there's always room to make our immigration system better on behalf of the American people. And I hope people of good faith can come together and reach a solution.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So, on that front, if your leverage here is the border, tell me what is the sticking point at this- this stage? Is it still that Republicans are pressing to tighten qualifications for claiming asylum and there's some Democratic resistance? Is it resistance to including Dreamers? What are the specifics that you're actually able to tackle?
SEN. BENNET: Well, the- obviously I would love it if we could include the Dreamers in this- in this package, 90% of American people believe that the Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship. There has been a discussion about whether or not we ought to think about changing the asylum standard. One of the things we all have to recognize, I think, as Americans, is that, over the last 10 years, gangs south of the border have created a billion-dollar business, that's smuggling human beings across the entire world, to the southern border and the southern border as the result of that is being undermined and is being more- much more difficult to manage. That's been a problem in Republican and Democratic and, you know, administrations. And if we can find a way to help fix that in a bipartisan way, that would be great. The point I'm trying to make is that whether we succeed or not, in terms of getting to that agreement, this Ukraine funding has to happen for the sake of democracy and for the sake of the western world. Putin, you know, believes he could lose on the battlefield in Ukraine. The battlefield he's trying to win on is the battlefield on Capitol Hill, and Democrats and Republicans have got to come together to make sure that doesn't happen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have clear guidance from Leader Schumer on how he wants this to play out in the next few weeks? I mean, you're running out of time in 2023.
SEN. BENNET: We're running out of time in 2023. I've literally talked to Leader Schumer, almost every day except Thanksgiving and his birthday over the course of this holiday weekend. I've had the chance to talk to Democrats and Republicans individually. Everybody knows what's at stake here. And everybody knows how short the time is. You said at the beginning of this interview, Congress has a lot of work to do. That's true. For once we should do that work instead of playing politics, the stakes are just too high.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On the other conflict that we haven't talked about with Israel and Hamas. President Biden said, when he was asked, "it is a worthwhile thought," raised by some Democrats, that there should be conditions placed on Israel aid. Now you've heard the National Security Adviser avoid any specifics there. Are you asking for any conditions to be placed on aid to Israel?
SEN. BENNET: I haven't so far. But I think that's a debate we're going to certainly- we're going to have in the coming days. In the meantime, it's critical that everybody understand that Hamas, you know, is a terrorist organization, that- that Israel has to defend itself, that it's been made much more difficult because of Hamas' use of civilians as human- as human shields, and that it is incumbent on Israel notwithstanding that, and notwithstanding that difficult issue to meet the highest standard. That's critically important for Israel to make sure that they kill as few civilians as possible, as they defend themselves against Hamas, and that they subscribe to the rule of law. And I know we're going to have a debate about that in the Congress, and perhaps we should, but we have always disappointed ourselves when we've not met the highest standards when we've been in armed conflict. And I think Israel is going to be facing that high standard as well, which is the right standard for Israel, for those of us that support Israel, and the right standard for those of us that have high aspirations for democracy, which those of us that are supporting both Israel and Ukraine at this moment, have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator, we'll continue to track the work you're able to get done. We'll be back in a moment.
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