NOEL KING, HOST:
Late last night, the Senate approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill, all 2,000 pages of it. Approved, yes, but no one in Congress loves this bill, especially not Senator Rand Paul. He objected to what he called Obama spending and trillion-dollar deficits. And he kept the Senate in suspense all day about whether he was going to force the government to shut down, even if only briefly. Here he is with Tucker Carlson on Fox News last night.
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RAND PAUL: The unholy alliance between Republicans and Democrats is this. Republicans are not fiscally conservative on the military. They want unlimited spending on the military.
TUCKER CARLSON: Right.
PAUL: Democrats say, we'll give it to you. We're not really opposed to it. We'll give you the military spending if you give us the domestic spending.
KING: The bill finally went through after midnight. And, clearly, both Republicans and Democrats suffered some losses here. Joining us to talk about all this is Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. He's vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Good morning, Senator.
PATRICK LEAHY: Good morning, Noel.
KING: All right. As Senator Paul mentioned there, this bill has big boost to military spending and some money to build new fencing on the border with Mexico. And yet, you voted yes.
LEAHY: I did. And it is a far better situation than where we were. It totally ignores the president, who said that he - if he didn't get $25 to $30 billion of American taxpayer money to build a wall, which would be last century's technology, along the whole southern border of this country, he would veto the bill. Well, he backed off of that because he wasn't going to get either Republicans or Democrats to vote for that.
Nobody - even though he's given his word that Mexico will pay for the wall, we all know Mexico's never going to pay for the wall, that the president kept saying that as a campaign thing. But he knew he wasn't telling the truth. And so we took care of some fencing that needed to be taken care of. I think it's about 33 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley and some secondary fencing in San Diego and some pedestrian fencing. But that's all.
KING: So you're not going to call it a loss?
LEAHY: No, no. I think we - the loss would've been if we had accepted what the president wanted. He wanted to talk about opioids but not put the money in for opioids. He wanted to talk about infrastructure and not put the money in for infrastructure.
KING: Well, let me talk about those domestic programs because I wonder. Do you agree with Senator Paul's assessment that Democrats agree to military spending in order to win spending on domestic programs?
LEAHY: No. I think a whole - a lot of Democrats felt that there were some areas where we had to improve our military spending, certainly in areas of training, areas of personnel, some aging equipment. And I think that there's a strong bipartisan support for that. This was not a here, we'll give money to the military if you give us money for domestic. It wasn't that at all. Since sequestration, we've fallen way behind where we should be. And this brings us back up with no help, really, from the White House. They objected to everything the whole way through. Their only interest is a trillion-dollar-more tax cut.
KING: Well, let me actually stop you right there. And I want to ask you whether or not you share the concern of Senator Paul and other Republicans about growing the trillion-dollar deficit.
LEAHY: Oh, I share it greatly. That's why I voted against giving a trillion - multitrillion-dollar tax breaks to the very wealthiest instead of just putting the tax breaks for the middle class, giving the tax breaks to small businesses, things that would help grow the economy. It's a giveaway to people who don't need it, won't grow the economy. And that's where our biggest problem is. Certainly, it's not - our problem isn't trying to fix our aging roads and bridges before Americans die from that. We pay taxes for that thing. Certainly, it's not the problem of trying to stop the opioid crisis or having decent medical care for our veterans.
KING: Let me ask you about one other domestic priority. Finding a way to protect DREAMers has been a big priority for Democrats the past year. Nothing in this bill would do that. Instead, there's $1.6 billion for a wall. That seems like a loss. Is it?
LEAHY: No. I think if we don't do DREAMers, that will be a loss. But until we can get the White House to actually agree for more than five hours at a time to what they would support in DREAMers, you're not going to get it through the Republican House.
KING: All right. Senator Patrick Leahy, senior U.S. senator of Vermont and a Democrat, thank you so much for joining us.
LEAHY: Good talking with you.
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