Republican former U.S. Representative Jason E. Chaffetz and former Obama aide Yohannes Abraham—both fellows at the Institute of Politics this semester—clashed over President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program protecting undocumented young people at an IOP panel Thursday evening.
The panel, billed as “Protests, Partisanship, & Fixing Politics: IOP Fellows Unplugged,” quickly turned to a tense debate over the discontinuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you all will disagree with me on a number of things,” Chaffetz said. “I think that [DACA] is one of the better things that President Trump has done.”
Chaffetz and Abraham offered differing accounts of each party’s attempts at immigration reform, as Chaffetz lambasted the Democratic Senate under former President Barack Obama for blocking his immigration bill.
“It would have helped hundreds of thousands of people and it was as bipartisan as it could possibly be, and guess what? Word came back: the President and [Democratic Majority Leader] Harry Reid, they’re not going to let a Republican have a victory on immigration before the 2012 election, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
Abraham shot back that the Democratic Congress under Obama was “remarkably productive” in passing “priority legislation” and recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.
“I don’t think it’s going to come as a galloping shock to anyone in the room that Jason and I have a very different memory of the previous eight years,” Abraham said.
Later in the event, IOP fellow and President of the Congressional Institute Mark Strand spoke about American politics and voter sentiments more broadly, discussing the root causes of dissatisfaction with elected officials.
“There’s this anger at both parties, they see them playing for elections. So they’re not going to govern, they’re just going to angle for the next election,” Strand said.
Strand praised the “politics of consensus”—“We don’t do well split 50-50,” he said—and argued this kind of disengagement makes it more difficult to govern.
“We have to get back to a politics where we are trying to reach consensus, where we agree on what the problem is. Right now we are all acquiring our own sets of facts,” he said. “Everyone’s contributing to this problem whether it’s the media, whether it’s the politicians, whether it’s the voters…if we’re going to just fight with each other, the system will break.”
Weekly study group sessions with the resident fall fellows will be held Tuesday through Thursday this semester. The IOP will also host visiting fellows, including former Trump campaign aide Corey Lewandowski and “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, throughout the semester.
—Staff writer Lucas Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @LucaspfWard.