U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, "Political Rewind" host Bill Nigut, and AJC political columnist Jim Galloway/GPB Radio

‘Political Rewind’ replay: Johnny Isakson on the immigration deal in the works

Today’s edition of GPB’s “Political Rewind” featured the timely appearance of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Frankly, we were expecting a long conversation about the memo that had just been released by House Republicans, criticizing the manner in which the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department had conducted a lengthy surveillance of Trump campaign staffer Carter Page as part of its investigation into Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential contest.

Isakson didn’t quarrel with the release of the Nunes memo, and said House Republicans had a legitimate reason to oversee the activities of the FBI and the larger U.S. Department of Justice. But like U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, he thought that the Democratic rebuttal should be released as well.

But Isakson wouldn’t go much beyond that:

“I’m not going to comment on the activities of individual members of the House or the Senate because as chairman of the ethics committee, something in this report may rise to my level, and if I prejudice myself early in a comment, then I might have to recuse myself later on.”

However, the senator did have this to say about Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the investigation: 

“I know of no reason why he shouldn’t be kept on the job. None whatsoever.”

Isakson was far more loquacious on the topic of immigration. He’s part of the bipartisan circle of senators trying to find the right formula for a deal that will again cause talk about a federal government shutdown next Thursday. Said Isakson: 

“I think the president put some things on the table in his proposal last week, in terms of the dreamers and some of those issues and pathways to citizenship – that before were taboo to talk about. Now they’re being talked about.

“I can tell you from measurement of the telephone intensity and the lobbying intensity, there is much more interest in finding a solution than there is in not finding a solution. And so, I think we’re going to find one. It’s probably going to have a lot of detractors. It’s probably going to make a lot of noise. But it’s probably going to be the right thing to do.”

 Host Bill Nigut and I were the only others in the studio. I asked Isakson if his bipartisan group was in competition with the effort by U.S. Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to substantially limit legal immigration into the U.S., and the terms by which immigrants are allowed to enter. Said Isakson:

“No. There are about four different efforts going on. Theirs is one of them, and they’re doing a fine job in what they’re doing. But there’s going to be pieces of everybody’s in it. It’s not going to be comprehensive in the sense of what [Sen. Edward Kennedy] tried to do 12 years ago, or the Gang of Eight tried to do six years ago, but it’s going to be targeted.

“It’s going to deal with the Dreamer issue, it’s going to deal with the citizenship issue, it’s going to deal with other issues like chain migration, in particular.”

And will a deal be reached by next Thursday, Feb. 8? No, said Isakson:

“There may be an opportunity to have an agreement in principle, an understanding in principle, but not the legislation itself.”

So we’re likely to have another extension, but not a shutdown. Unless the deal goes sour.

If you couldn’t catch it live, click below to listen to the entire show:

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.