MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
OK, let's bring in another voice here - Senator Angus King of Maine. He is an independent, but he caucuses with Democrats. Senator King, welcome back to the show.
ANGUS KING: Glad to be with you.
KELLY: Glad to have you with us. Let me start here. What did Democrats get from this shutdown, by which I mean, what did they get today that they didn't have on Friday?
KING: Well, I think that what they got was an assurance before the entire American public from the majority leader to bring a DACA bill to the floor failing negotiations over the next two weeks. There hasn't been an immigration bill on the floor of the Senate in five years, and I think that was a - real progress. Finally this morning, Mitch McConnell publicly said, I will bring a bill to the floor. It will be - I can't remember the exact terms of - a level playing field, a bill where all sides will be heard. And that's progress. That hasn't happened before.
And for those of you that are - for those who are critical of the decision, I guess their couple of points is, would staying in a shutdown situation longer have improved the prospects? I think probably not. In fact, I think it would have worked in the opposite direction. And the other answer is Dick Durbin supported it. There is no one in Congress who has given more on behalf of the DREAMers than Dick Durbin. This is something he's been working on for 17 years. He is absolutely passionate.
And I think he made a tactical decision today that the shutdown was not accomplishing the goals - in fact, in the long run, it may have been negative - and that for the first time, we had a commitment from the majority leader to bring the bill to the floor on a date certain. And importantly, the moderate Republicans that I've been meeting with all weekend along with a group of moderate Democrats - they - Mitch McConnell has an obligation to them now, too.
KELLY: Let me ask this. Do you trust Mitch McConnell to keep his word? And I ask because there have been earlier promises made in exchange for other votes to Republican senators Flake, Susan Collins of Maine, your colleague from Maine, where they promised votes in support of the tax overhaul. And promises made to them have not yet come to pass. I mean, it seems that Congress has a trust issue that has not been resolved by what happened today.
KING: Well, I think that's a fair question. But we will know the answer to that question in three weeks. I think it's very - it'll be very hard for - it's one thing to make a promise behind closed doors in a conversation. It's another thing to be before C-SPAN and before the whole world saying, I will bring a bill forward. It will be neutral. It will be a open, level playing field. That's a commitment. And by the way, the commitments that he made to...
KELLY: And that's what significant to you - that's what's significant that Senator McConnell did today that you wanted him to do Friday and you weren't seeing yet.
KELLY: Public promise.
KING: I wasn't seeing that. The other thing was his rhetoric changed this morning. All this weekend, he's been talking about, this is about illegal immigration, illegal immigration. And this morning, he didn't utter those words. He talked about DACA. And I think that's a change of tone. That was important. Now, will it work out? We don't know. But at some point, you have to try to make the best decision you can. I quoted Mick Jagger on the floor the other day. You can't always get what you want.
KELLY: (Laughter) And you don't always get to quote Mick Jagger on the floor. So that's a...
KING: That's right. I think it may have been a first.
KELLY: ...A mini victory right there. I wonder; in all of the politicking and back-and-forthing over the weekend - any progress on the substance? Are we still where we were on Friday in terms of the actual policy at stake here on immigration?
KING: Well, I literally walked out of a meeting on that very subject five minutes ago, and the discussions have started in a very serious and bipartisan way by some people of good faith to try to find a resolution. But it's important to understand. We're going to try very hard to find a resolution in the next three weeks. If we can't, the fallback is Mitch McConnell's commitment to bring a bill to the floor so that we can have amendments and debate. And then we've got to get the votes, and that's the end of the process in any case.
KELLY: Now, Senator King, another way that we could look at today's events would be this - 17 days till the next shutdown. I mean, how confident are you that, on February 8, we won't be in the same place, you and I having the same conversation?
KING: If I wasn't confident that we won't be in that place, I wouldn't have voted for the resolution. I voted against it the other day. My principal problem, by the way, in all of this has not necessarily been DACA, although I - that's a very, very important issue. And I understand the significance, particularly for those young people you were just talking to.
But I'm sick and tired of continuing resolutions generally. It's a lousy way to govern. It puts off decisions. We've gotten into the routine of doing it. We've done it five times per year for the past 20 years. We haven't had a budget on time. So I'm - there are two things that came out of this. A lot of people are now saying, we got to quit doing continuing resolutions. If we weld shut that escape hatch, maybe we'll get more timely decisions. The other...
KELLY: And in a few seconds - in the few seconds we have left, did you learn anything here on how Congress will kick this habit?
KING: Well, I think there are a lot of people - and that's what I was going to say. The best thing to emerge from this is a strong middle. There was a group of 20 senators from both sides who met four or five times over the weekend many, many hours, worked with both of their leaders and I think had a significant role in getting this thing done. And the middle has got to assert itself, and that's what happened today.
KELLY: Maine independent Angus King - Senator King, thanks very much for your time.
KING: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHICHA LIBRE'S "DANZA DEL MILLONARIO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.