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Arizona Senator Jon Kyl on the Middle East, immigration, and judicial nominations

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
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HH: Joined now by our favorite Senator, Jon Kyl of the great state of Arizona. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure to speak with you.

JK: Hugh, thanks very much. Good to be with you and your listeners.

HH: Now the Los Angeles Times today is covering your proposal, along with Senator Cornyn, to put $3.5 billion dollars into the appropriations to get the fence underway. Does that have legs?

JK: I hope so. I think it’s the way that we can move immigration reform forward. It’s the way that the President can show that he is deadly serious about this matter of getting the border under control and enforcing the law. And frankly, it’s a way for the U.S. government to finally answer the question that Americans have been asking, which is if you’re not willing to enforce the current law, why should we allow you to pass a new law? And what this would demonstrate is that we’re serious about enforcing existing law, as well as making preperations to enforce a new comprehensive immigration reform.

HH: How much border security does $3.5 billion buy, Senator Jon Kyl?

JK: This $3.5 billion has to be added to several billion dollars that’s been spent over the last few years, and regular appropriations that will be spent in the future. So it’s not just a matter of this one narrow window. But $3.5 billion dollars buys a lot of border security. We’re talking about fencing, Border Patrol agents, ICE agents, detention spaces, Coast Guard, a whole variety of things that would assist in the control of the border.

HH: Now Senator, is that already in the appropriations? Where is that in the process?

JK: This figure was derived by substracting all of the things that we had appropriated money for this year from the requests that the President has made, or authorizations that Congress has passed. In other words, Congress passes laws that says we’re authorized to do all of these great things, and then doesn’t fund it, or at least fund it totally. So what we did is to add up the things that we had authorized, and then add to that the specific requests that the President had made, substracted what we had already funded through the appropriation process, which, by the way, is substantial. And then this $3 billion dollars is the difference.

HH: Now is there…does that mean that you have to go back to Appropriations Committee and ask them to amend their bill?

JK: No, this would be…that’s one way of doing it, but what we anticipate is that this would be outside of the normal budget process, which has to stick with a number that keeps us in balance. We passed a budget, we will stay within that budget. This is above and beyond that. This is emergency spending, like Iraqi war spending, and the war in Afghanistan, and therefore, is outside the budget. It adds to the deficit. It’s not paid for in any way, just like the war fighting money is not paid for. But our view is that Americans surely, if we’re interested in fighting terrorists abroad, we’re also surely interested in the sovereignty of this nation, and controlling our own border here at home.

HH: Well, I wish you well on that. What about the Hutchinson-Pence plan that’s been talked about? 17 years to citizenship, border security, and you have to cross and come back in. Has that got legs?

JK: It may. I think any idea is worth discussing. There are a couple of features to it that I don’t like…the automatic path to citizenship component to it. I don’t believe that it is necessary, or desirable, to turn temporary foreign workers who are unskilled and uneducated, into U.S. citizens. We have a program for that. You can get a green card here, you can then apply for citizenship. That system remains. But what I don’t think we need to do is to convert every temporary worker, somebody who is supposed to just be here for a short period of time, into a permanent resident, and then ultimately, a citizen.

HH: Okay, Senator Kyl. Good luck with the appropriations. I’d like to move to Israel and judges while I’ve got you.

JK: You bet.

HH: Since you’re doing emergency spending, there’s an article in Ha’aretz today saying Israel really needs help. Their economy is shattered, especially some sectors in the north part of the country. They don’t want to ask. They don’t want to tin cup. Any movement on the Hill to get them some help that we simply stand up and say to our ally, we know you’re hurting, here’s some cash?

JK: Not right now. They haven’t asked for it. We provide them a great deal of military assistance. I think on the order of about $3 billion dollars a year. And we’ve plussed that up a little bit in a couple of areas, on missile defense, for example, that I’ve been responsible for. But they haven’t asked for economic aid yet. I think it would be a while before the U.S. Congress would consider that.

HH: Now Senator Kyl, if you heard from people that they do want the Senate and the House to move in that direction, would it matter? Because I really believe we’ve got to get our front line allies, like lend-lease in World War II, the stuff they need to stay in the game.

JK: Well, when they need something to stay in the game, I’m all for providing it. Ordinarily, that’s going to be military equipment, and that’s what we’ve been providing. I have not heard that the Israeli economy is in tatters at this point. It’s a much more robust economy than a lot of the other nations of the world, and until they show some indication that they assistance in that regard, I think we ought to focus just on the military support.

HH: Okay, but if the case was made, would you be open to it?

JK: I’d be open to it. We’ve provided economic aid to Israel in the past. But I must tell you that in talking about the visit today by the prime minister of Iraq, Malaki, one of the most incredible visits by a foreign leader to the United States Congress, was the visit that then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of Israel, made to the U.S. Congress. And he said in his speech, we have enough good economic ideas, similar to yours, to have a robust economy. And we’re going to get off of this foreign aid that you’re providing us. And we appreciate the military assistance that you provide, and we’re going to need that for a while. But we’re looking forward to the day when we don’t need the economic assistance. And they did that. As finance minister, he did a lot to privatize businesses in Israel. And it really has become a very robust economic country, and I really don’t think at this point that they are looking for economic help.

HH: All right. Well, we’ll come back to that and make the case when the time is right, because I think there are some arguments that I’ve seen in Ha’aretz and Jerusalem Post that their agricultural industry in the north, for example, and their oil industry is shattered. But I want to get to judges. Is there going to be a vote on Boyle and Haynes, Senator Kyl?

JK: Not soon. And they are two separate cases. In one case, we’ve got just a couple of Republican Senators who are holding the nomination up, and I don’t know…and this is in the case of Haynes, whether or not they’re going to relent. If they do…

HH: That’s Graham and McCain, right?

JK: Correct.

HH: Okay.

JK: There may be a couple of others, but those are two who have expressed opposition. And if they decide to let Haynes go, then my guess is Democrats will be very firmly against him, but there might be enough support to let him go. But until they do that, it’s probably not wise to bring him to the floor.

HH: And Boyle?

JK: That is a differerent set of circumstances, and I’m not going to express an opinion here over the air, because I frankly need to go back and check it. I knew when I came on the air with you, Hugh, you would have a question about judges, and I regret that I didn’t go back and bone up on the status of each of these candidates. I apologize, and I’ll do it next time.

HH: Here’s my last one then. Okay. Here’s my last one. Peter Keisler, the tremendous nominee for the D.C. Circuit…

JK: Great, yeah.

HH: Will he get a vote before September’s recess?

JK: Sure hoping so. I’m going to conduct the hearing for him that we will do before the recess going into August, and then we have four weeks after that, in September, to get him through the committee and through the floor, and it’s certainly my hope that we can do that. He’s an outstanding nominee.

HH: Oh, that’s great. You’re going to conduct the hearing?

JK: I will.

HH: Oh, that is super. Jon Kyl, that’s why we like to talk to you. Congratulations. That’s the most important judicial nominee on the floor. I know you and Bill Frist will work hard, as will the chairman.

JK: It is right now, and we’re going to work on it hard.

HH: Senator Kyl, always a pleasure. Good luck on border security. Glad to talk Israel with you, and I look forward to hearing about Keisler the next time we chat.

End of interview.

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