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Weekend Politics: Trump Visits Texas


Just as Hurricane Harvey has changed the landscape of Houston, it's also changed the landscape of the upcoming political fights in Washington, D.C., this fall. President Trump plans to push for an initial $7.9 billion in disaster relief from Congress. And yesterday, he made a second visit to Houston to meet with hurricane survivors.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's been really nice. It's been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing, I think, even for the country to watch and for the world to watch. It's been beautiful.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us this morning. Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as I said, this was President Trump's second trip to Texas since the storm. How did it go?

LIASSON: Well, it was a do-over for him in a way. The first trip, he went to Corpus Christi. He didn't meet any actual victims. This time, there were hugs. There were selfies. He was able to show empathy. His main message was how happy Texans were with the federal government response. He said he wanted to make the point of how well-received the government effort had been.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. That's Houston. But how has the hurricane scrambled the fiscal fights that were teed up for the fall here in Washington?

LIASSON: Well, there's no doubt that Harvey has rearranged politics in Washington, at least in the short term. This was a universal experience. It affected rich and poor, Democrat and Republican in Texas. And it might help shake lawmakers out of their partisan corners. For instance, the president is no longer going to insist on shutting down the government be shut down if he doesn't get funding for his border wall in the government funding bill. They're going to put that off for about three months.

It also might help the administration get Congress to raise the debt ceiling with no spending cuts attached. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said today that if the debt ceiling isn't raised, it might take longer for the federal government to get the money to spend on Harvey. And Harvey might lead the Trump administration to reconsider its recent decision to get rid of an Obama-era recommendation or rule that required buildings built with federal money to be built above ground in hundred-year flood plain levels.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to turn to North Korea. You know, speaking of external events changing the calculus in Washington, let's talk about this new nuclear test.

LIASSON: Well, if it's determined that North Korea has put an H bomb on an ICBM missile, that does change things. As usual, the messages coming out of the administration today were mixed. First, the president tweeted, accusing our ally South Korea of appeasement. He said, South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing. Presumably, that one thing is force. But then just a few minutes later, the Treasury secretary was on television, saying he's preparing a package of additional sanctions - more diplomacy.

And experts say we already have tough sanctions. They're unlikely to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitions. But later today, the president is going to meet with his national security team at the White House about North Korea. And one possible change this could make is the president seemed to be ready to pull out of an Obama-era South Korea trade deal. And his national security advisers have been trying to convince him not to do that because that's something the South Koreans do not want him to do. And now is a time when the U.S. is trying to form a united front with South Korea against the North.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is one other looming deadline. Do we know what President Trump's going to do about DACA, the Obama-era executive order that provided amnesty to immigrants who were brought here illegally as children known as the DREAMers?

LIASSON: We're going to find out on Tuesday. He promised on the campaign to get rid of DACA. He called it executive amnesty. We are hearing that he's trying to find some kind of a middle ground between his base, who wants him to get rid of DACA, and the very sympathetic image that DACA recipients have. These are people who are brought here as children, as infants illegally. Many of them were hurt by Hurricane Harvey. And many of them were first responders in Houston. So he might decide to put the whole decision off for six months and give Congress a chance to come up with some kind of legislative solution. There is a bipartisan move in Congress right now to provide some kind of protection for the DREAMers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR Political correspondent, Mara Liasson. As always, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.