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Democratic Funder Tom Steyer On Budget Deal


The bipartisan budget agreement signed by President Trump had no provision for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects the DREAMers, young people who were brought to this country illegally as children. Now this has angered many Democrats, including Tom Steyer. He's the founder of NextGen America, a political action committee, and he gave more than $90 million to Democratic committees and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. He's also funding a campaign now to impeach President Donald Trump. Mr. Steyer joins us from San Francisco. Thanks so much for being with us.

TOM STEYER: Scott, thank you for having me.

SIMON: Will this budget agreement that many Democrats reached with Republicans affect your feeling for the party you support?

STEYER: Well, I will say this. You know, we feel that the DREAMers deserve a clean DREAM Act. We believe that standing up for them is a matter of principle, that it's a human rights issue and a civil rights issue. We believe that elected officials should be - particularly Democrats - should be standing up for young people who've done nothing wrong.

SIMON: Are you upset by the budget agreement?

STEYER: Well to be fair, I don't think you can look at a budget agreement without looking at the tax plan that preceded it. If you look at the budget agreement, in and of itself, the fact that it doesn't include the DREAM Act does upset me and does seem specifically wrong. But I think any budget agreement has to be put in the context of the revenues and the tax plan that preceded it. And when you look at them together, I think we've put ourselves in a very, very tough spot, Scott.

SIMON: What would you advise the Democrats to do to get something done for the DREAMers?

STEYER: Honestly, I think in most of these things, I think it's very hard to negotiate with Mr. Trump because he doesn't stick to his word. And I think that my experience of negotiating over the last three or four decades is if there's someone like that, then you really just say, this is what I want. I'm not budging. I'm not talking. Give me a call when you're ready to deal.

SIMON: Well, but does that just mean that nothing gets done for the DREAMers?

STEYER: I don't think so. If you're the minority in the House and the minority in the Senate, and you don't control the White House, then you're going to - you have to ask yourself where are the points where we have a point of pressure? And then you have to decide what it is that you want to fight for. You have to say that clearly - not bluff at all - and we're not budging. And that's what you've got to do because the fact of the matter is every time that you negotiate you're going to come out with something that isn't great.

SIMON: You note your business career. As you see it, Mr. Steyer, has President Trump made the whole prospect of successful business figures in public office more or less enticing?

STEYER: (Laughing) That is a great question, Scott. I will say this. When I look at America today, what I am looking for and what I respect the most is people who are willing to be transparent, who have real principles, who go back to what I think of as basic American values and stick up for the American people. So in 2018, what I'm looking for people to do is really to do that because I think we're at great risk, to be honest. And I think we're watching a real threat to our democracy and real threat to the safety and health of Americans. And so I'm looking for people of character to stand up for the same values that have characterized our country for hundreds of years.

SIMON: Tom Steyer, he's founder of NextGen America, a political action committee, and a major donor to the Democratic Party. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

STEYER: Scott, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.