Blunt on Reconciling Immigration Bill
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turned for a response to Congressman Roy Blunt. He's the Majority Whip in the House. Thanks for joining us.
Representative ROY BLUNT (Republican, Missouri; Majority Whip): Renee, it's good to be with you.
MONTANGE: Now, this Senate bill involved weeks of hard negotiation and lots of compromise. It doesn't appear therefore that there is a lot of give in that. How are you and the House going to reconcile?
Rep. BLUNT: I can see a way through to get this done, but not if the Senate goes in saying it's the Senate bill or nothing, and not if the House goes in saying there's nothing going to come of this conference but the House bill. We have to both be willing to look at securing the border, the work force needs of the country, and what do you do with people who are here illegally, and determining how those three problems need to be solved.
MONTAGNE: What on the Senate bill is, bottom line, unacceptable to House Republicans?
Rep. BLUNT: I don't know that we should start saying what we'll never do or what's unacceptable. The House the position - I know you've explained - has clearly been we need to secure the border first, stop this problem from getting bigger, and then address the other two issues. A number of Senators felt that that needed to be the approach as well. And so frankly, that's were we'll start. They'll start at a different place. I think the president tends to be more on their side than ours, and we'll see how that goes.
MONTAGNE: That certainly seems to be the case. The White House made a direct appeal to your caucus. Karl Rove was up in the Congress this week. They want to pass legislation and this seems to be close to what the Senate has approved. Is it having an impact?
Rep. BLUNT: I think everybody is in some kind of movement here that hopefully can result in a solution again to all of these problems. And really part of the trickiness is going to be whether they all have to solved at exactly the same time of not. The president seems to feel they have to be solved at the same time. I don't agree with that at this point. The House doesn't agree with that at this point. But that's how this process has to work. We understand that there are work force concerns in the country, and what do you do with the people who are here illegally.
MONTAGNE: But do you think the House can keep Senate Democrats on board a bill that would secure the border with some notion that down the road there would be a way of dealing with the 12 million or so illegal immigrants who are here in this country?
Rep. BLUNT: I think it depends on how you put it together, but if you're not very careful here you eliminate your ability to negotiate by, one, negotiating in the public; and two, laying down to many absolutes before you get in and try to solve this problem that clearly the country needs to solve. In many ways the intensity on securing the border I think has been driven by the reaction to that bill the House passed last year, thousands of people demonstrating in the streets about recognizing some kind of rights of illegals in the country. It hasn't helped that cause. I think that's driven the cause the other way.
MONTAGNE: What are you and the other House Republicans hearing in your districts, about this issue? How big of deal is that, for instance, in Missouri?
Congressman BLUNT: As the House Whip, I was in over a hundred districts in the last cycle. And it didn't matter whether I was in Seattle, Washington or Tyler, Texas, when you said, what do you want to talk about now, at the event I would be at for a candidate; the first or second question was always immigration, no matter where you were. It's a big issue in my district in South West Missouri; it's an issues that is the top of our telephone calls every single day. Even when gas prices hit a high point two or three weeks ago, immigration was still the number one topic people were calling about; gas prices were number two.
MONTAGNE: Congressman Roy Blunt, of Missouri, is the Majority Whip in the House. Thank you very much for talking with us.
Rep. BLUNT: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: You can read how the House and Senate immigration bills compare at npr.org.
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