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Texas Senator John Cornyn on the status of the border fence, the Supplemental, and comments on Al Sharpton’s bigotry.

Thursday, May 10, 2007
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HH: Joined now by United States Senator John Cornyn on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Senator, always a pleasure, welcome back.

JC: Thanks, Hugh.

HH: We’ve talked on air and off air about the immigration problems. I want to get to the Supplemental, but the underscoring of those problems comes with the arrest of the six at Fort Dix, three of whom are in the country illegally. And the problem doesn’t get any better every day that we don’t do anything about this.

JC: Well, that’s exactly right, and unfortunately, Hugh, when Republicans were in charge last year, we didn’t get the job done. I didn’t vote for the Senate bill, because it had some shortcomings. But I would have much preferred we’d rolled up our sleeves and worked through it with the House, and then get a bill to the President that he could sign, that would have gone a long way to fix the problem. Now, of course, Senator Kennedy is in charge in the Senate on this issue, and we’re at a disadvantage. But you’re right, in order to get the kind of things that I want, and that a lot of people want, like border security and an effective system of worker identification, and actually, just basically a workable immigration system, it’s going to require some compromise, and some things that frankly, I’m not going to like very much.

HH: Obviously, these three would-be terrorists would not have been able to work if they’d been subject to background checks that were effective. We need to get some sort of employer sanction in there. Are we getting close to that in a draft bill, Senator Cornyn?

JC: Yes, we’re working very hard on that. Senator Jon Kyl and I have insisted that an effective system of worker identification and employer verification is really a lynchpin for the effectiveness of this system, because document fraud and identity theft have just made the current system unenforceable, because employers are liable for knowingly hiring somebody who can’t legally work. But if they’ve got bogus documents, obviously, they’re not forensic document examiners, and that causes the system, really, to collapse right there.

HH: One more question on immigration, and then we’ll get to the Supplemental, Senator. There’s a new article in Mother Jones, I don’t know if you read Mother Jones much…

JC: Not recently.

HH: It’s about species extinction, and it contains in it a diatribe against the fence on the Southern border as being massively hurtful to species migration. Is that fence getting built, Senator? I mean, not the virtual one, the kind of one you can go up and touch.

JC: Yeah, there’s a considerable amount of fencing and physical barriers being built, particularly along the Arizona border. And then there’s been a recent proposal by the Department of Homeland Security to build up to 370 miles of physical barriers and fencing. But now, there is discussions going on, what the best combination of boots on the ground and technology and physical barriers is to accomplish border security. That’s where we are right now.

HH: Well, I hope we get the real fence. People need it politically to move forward. Now Senator Cornyn, we had this whole kabuki dance, and the House and the Senate passed their idiot bill, and they sent it to the President, and he vetoed it, and it came back, and it couldn’t be sustained, and it won’t be sustained. I thought we’d get down to business, but apparently, we’re not.

JC: Well, it looks like the House is continuing to try to play games with funding for the troops. You know, the debate can continue, and should continue about what we’re doing in Iraq to fight al Qaeda. I’m happy to have that debate. But there’s no reason why we have to hold up necessary funds to the troops, to provide them necessary equipment like the MRAP vehicles, the mine resistant ambush protected, V-shaped hull vehicles that have been successful in defeating IED’s in Iraq. Those are being held up, $3.1 billion dollars worth of them, because of the games that are being played here. People’s lives are on the line, and I’m afraid some will be lost as a result of the games here in Washington, D.C.

HH: So is there any idea on a schedule yet, Senator Cornyn, for when a real Supplemental will get to the President?

JC: Well, I hope sooner rather than later, but it’s sounding now today like the House could even hold this up until after Memorial Day. And you know, I think that’s just a shame, because every day that goes by, the Army’s having to basically rob from Peter to pay Paul, take money for the Air Force and for the Navy, just to keep the Army going, and we all know the pressures put on the Army, because it’s too small, and people are overextended. And they need some relief. And unfortunately, a lot of this burden’s being born by those who are in harm’s way, and their families who we ought to be helping, not hindering.

HH: Now today, Senator Cornyn, retired Major General John Batiste came out and said our President ignores sound military advice, and surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates. Do you believe David Petraeus is a like-minded and compliant subordinate?

JC: You know, that’s pretty insulting, and I would hope that a professional military man like General Batiste would realize that he is, while he is entitled to his point of view, that there’s just no basis for that. I mean, we’ve had a big, full-blown public debate about Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the use of force, as did many others, and I believe rightly so, based on the intelligence we had at the time. Now we found out, obviously, after the fact, that some of it was flawed, but the world’s a better place with Saddam out of the picture. Now, though, rather than looking back and trying to point the finger of blame, what we ought to be doing is figuring out how to solve the problem. And the problem is 6,000 or so al Qaeda in Al Anbar Province who are determined to kill more Americans and innocent civilians. And the Iraqis need a little help. They need a little breather so they can provide basic security, and do the political reconciliation that’s necessary, so as the Iraq Study Group said, they can govern and defend their own country, and we can bring our troops home.

HH: Are there a solid 41 votes in the Republican caucus to resist the demands for timetables and surrender on a date certain?

JC: I believe so, I believe so. We were able to…we had, let me see, I’m trying to remember now, it was close to 49, 48 votes against the bill, so I think we’ve got room to spare. All we need is 41 to be able to block it in the Senate.

HH: All right, a couple of quick questions to close out, Senator Cornyn. Peter Keisler, nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, you’re on Judiciary. Any movement there?

JC: Peter Keisler is really one of the most outstanding people I’ve seen nominated to the Circuit Court of Appeals. There’s no longer any impediments to Mr. Keisler’s confirmation on the Republican side. You remember there was some questions about filling the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit. There’s now a pending transfer of the 12th seat to the 9th Circuit that satisfies Republican concerns. But it looks like now that we’re going to see some of the Democrats playing games with his nomination, so I think it’s in some doubt. But I intend, and I know my colleagues intend to do everything we can to make sure a good man gets treated fairly, and gets an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

HH: Now I want to play for you Al Sharpton on Monday night in a debate with Christopher Hitchens, as he engages in some bigotry.

AS: And as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don’t worry about that. That’s a temporary, that’s a temporary situation.

HH: Now Al Sharpton’s been kind of a joke for a long time, Senator Cornyn, but how should Americans react to his pretty naked religious bigotry like that?

JC: Well, I think they should reject it, and I think they will. That’s just irresponsible. I think no one would tolerate that kind of talk in a civil discussion, and I just think they will, and should reject that kind of talk out of Mr. Sharpton.

HH: Senator John Cornyn of Texas, always a pleasure, Senator. Thanks for spending some time with us this afternoon in Washington, D.C.

End of interview.

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