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Congressman Pete Hoekstra on the House GOP resolve to oppose the Senate immigration bill.

Thursday, June 28, 2007
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DB: We’re now joined by Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Congressman, how are you today?

PH: I’m doing just fine, thank you.

DB: So Congressman, we have a lot of anxious listeners about the immigration bill. Can you tell us something that will comfort them?

PH: Well, hey, I’m not going to predict what’s going to be the outcome of the Senate process. I understand it is a very ugly process, you know, limited amendments, and these types of things. I’m just hoping that we’ve got 40 courageous folks, or 41 courageous folks over there who’ll vote against cloture tomorrow, and make sure that there’s not a final vote on this bill. But in the House, we’re getting ready. In an unprecedented move, I mean, I’ve been here for fifteen years, I’ve never seen the House GOP Conference do what it did yesterday. Yesterday, I presented an amendment to the conference that very simply said you know, be it resolved that the House GOP Conference disapproves of the Senate immigration bill, and we received, you know, I got well over 80% of the conference to agree to that resolution.

DB: Yeah, you know, Congressman, we had John Shadegg on yesterday, and we were talking about that motion. And we were all pleased by it, but we’re also a little concerned by the numbers, that you had something like 115 voting in favor, right, 23 voting against…

PH: Right.

DB: And then there were 64 that weren’t there.

PH: Right.

DB: Where were they?

PH: Well, I mean what you’ve got is, hey, we were doing this at 5:30 yesterday afternoon. There was no concerted strategy of the people who might be in favor of the Senate immigration bill boycotting the meeting, or those kinds of things. You know, there may have been people that had other meetings already scheduled. There might have been mark ups going on. And so I’m not worried about 60 members not being there. You know, that happens at these conference meetings, especially when they’re scheduled four or five hours in advance. And I think that the 23 who voted against us yesterday afternoon, some of them voted against us for process reasons, they didn’t like us taking a position on an uncompleted Senate bill. No one in the conference spoke in favor of the Senate bill. It was a secret ballot, so even some of those who may be privately for the Senate bill, if they had to put up a public vote in favor of the Senate bill, they wouldn’t do it. So I think 23 is the high water mark. It’s not a threshold, a floor that’s going to go higher. I think it’s the high water mark for where we are.

DB: Now doing your whip efforts to try to figure out what’s going on in the other side of the aisle, are you confident that if the Senate falls down on the job, and approves this bill, that the House can undo it?

PH: No, I’m not. I mean, this is why I think this vote in the Senate is so important. If you think that an immigration bill coming to Nancy Pelosi’s House, that we’re going to be able to improve that bill, I don’t think so. I mean, I think that’s why we’re so concerned. We think that an immigration bill that comes out of the Senate doesn’t get better in the House under Nancy Pelosi. It only gets worse.

DB: Yeah.

PH: And for some people, they say how could it get any worse? Believe me, under Nancy Pelosi, under the Democratic leadership of the House, it can get worse. You know, this is the difference. People say well, what’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats running the House or the Senate? House Republicans and Senate folks, we stopped this because we knew where the President was. We never wanted…we wanted comprehensive immigration reform, but we knew that with this President, we couldn’t move forward, because we knew we’d get a bad bill. So we stopped it for six years. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, now it’s become their signature item in six months.

DB: Yeah, you know, Congressman, the thing about the vote in the conference yesterday, that disconcerts me a little bit, is that the whole idea was to send a message to the Senate that if you pass this bill, or if you vote for cloture, it’s going to die in the House, so there’s no reason to do that, no reason to fall on your sword for this bill that’s not going to become law anyway, assuming they all want it to become law for the purest of motives. But do you think yesterday’s results sent that message with only 120 some Congressmen voting for it?

PH: Yeah, 80% of the conference, more than 80% of the conference coming out against it, and like I said…

DB: But 80% of the conference that actually voted, not 80% of the…more like 60% of the conference.

PH: Yeah, I think you’re looking at it a little bit too technical, Dean.

DB: Okay.

PH: I think if we would have had all 202 of us there, we would have had between 80 and 90% of the vote. I think this sent a clear message. Like I said, it’s unprecedented for the House GOP Conference to come out and stake out a position before the Senate has even finished a bill. As we talked about it yesterday, maybe the last time the House of Representatives took a position on legislation that either wasn’t in front of us, either in the House or the Senate, was in 1994, when we came out with the Contract With America, where we said these are the ten specific pieces of legislation that we are in favor of, and that we will vote on within the first 100 days. We haven’t done it since.

DB: Yeah.

PH: And so, no, I wouldn’t worry about the 60 that weren’t there. They feel the same way that we do. The Senate knows that, the President knows it. He knows that between 80 and 90% of the House Republican Conference is firmly against this Senate bill.

DB: All right, Congressman, that is great news. Now one of the questions, another question I have is that the Wall Street Journal had an editorial today…

PH: Yup.

DB: You saw it?

PH: Right.

DB: Saying it would be disastrous, politically, for the GOP if this bill fails.

PH: Absolutely not. I mean, you know, one of the busiest people in my office back in West Michigan is the person who is helping people who are trying to get into the country legally. And that includes a lot of Hispanics. And I can tell you, I’m an immigrant. I emigrated from the Netherlands. My parents emigrated when I was three years old. And there’s as much support for legal immigration and against amnesty among those people who have recently come to America legally.

DB: Absolutely.

PH: They know what the rules are, they know what the laws are, they know what the bureaucratic process is. They went through it. In some cases, they’re more furious about providing amnesty than regular Americans, because they say well, wait a minute, I went through this process, yeah, it’s difficult, it should be difficult. America is a special place. We wanted to come here for a bunch of reasons, and now we’re going to…people come here from Ukraine, they come here from the Middle East, they come here from Africa. They come here because we have the rule of law.

DB: Yup.

PH: And now they’re…which in many of their countries, they don’t have. And now they see us saying now you’re just becoming like a third world country. You’re throwing out the rule of law. I think it is a total misnomer, a total fallacy that Republicans standing up for law and order, and for the process of law, that that is going to be bad for us, and that Hispanics are going to reject it? I think, you know, there are people, a lot of Hispanics who have come to this country legally, they are in favor of legal immigration, they are against amnesty.

DB: Congressman Pete Hoekstra, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your passion for this issue.

PH: Hey, thanks.

DB: And I can tell you something, our listeners on the other side of the radio wall, they were thrilled by what they just heard you say.

PH: Well, I can tell you, them calling their Senators and their Congressmen, and they’re enabling this message to get into Washington. Thanks for all you do.

DB: Congressman Hoekstra, thank you for joining us.

End of interview.

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