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Reps. Diaz-Balart and Gonzalez on Immigration

Reps. Diaz-Balart and Gonzalez on Immigration

By John King, USA - May 7, 2012

KING: Well, let's discuss the immigration report card and how this issue will shape the campaign ahead.

Democrat Congressman Charles Gonzalez of Texas with us. He's chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who serves as co-chair of the presidential candidate Mitt Romney's national steering committee.

We showed the gentlemen backwards there, but as we talk to them, we will get it right.

Congressman -- the Democrat, I want to come to you first, Congressman Gonzalez. To the point that, in the Latino, people say, Mr. President, you promised to submit the legislation and you never did, why? Even if you know Congress isn't going to pass it, why not keep the promise by handing up the piece of paper?

REP. CHARLES GONZALEZ (D), TEXAS: There were ongoing discussions throughout the first two years of the president's tenure, of course.

The problem was the reality of a gridlocked Congress. And we know what was going on in Senate. The Senate was supposed to go forward first, but of course you know what's going on there and of course the frustration and of course just the obstructionism.

The president has been dedicated to comprehensive immigration reform from day one. He has not let up on that. The problem is, he is absolutely right. He's the executive branch. You still need Congress to pass the law.

KING: You do need Congress to pass the law.

Congressman Diaz-Balart, what is the mood at the moment? As you know, your party, if you look at the polling, has a problem with Latino voters. I know you're among those who has tried to suggest that some voices tone down the rhetoric, maybe we should get progress.

Is the problem here the comprehensive part? If you did this piece by piece, could we get agreement with the Democratic president on incremental immigration reform?

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: Well, I think it is important to put the facts on the table.

And your -- when you first spoke about it, you did so. But when people talk about the obstructionist Congress, for the first two years, this president had huge majorities, Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate.

And as you said a little while ago, he said that he was going to bring forward legislation. When he controlled the House and the Senate, for two years, not only -- and then later, he says, well, I tried. He never presented legislation. By the way, we're still waiting. I send messages to the White House continuously. They don't even respond to me about this issue.

But, again, let's put it on the record. Look, he promised he would present legislation and try to get it passed in his first 12 months. He said so repeatedly. He never -- he to this day has yet to present it. And to blame Congress when in the first two years, he had 100 percent control in the House and the Senate, and now to blame Republicans?

Look, the facts just don't add up. The reason we do not have immigration reform, look, it is a tough issue, obviously. Otherwise, we would have done it a long time ago, those of us that support it.

But without presidential leadership, it is impossible. This president only talks about it election time. And giving speeches is not real leadership. The problem that we have is that while he talks about it when he remembers it during election season, he has not wanted to get it done because here is a question. Where is his bill? We're still waiting for it.

KING: It is a fair question, where is his bill, is it not? And your Republican colleague is correct in that the first two years in office, the Democrats did run the town.

GONZALEZ: Running the town and passing legislation are two different things. One is perception, that you have that majority.

I love my dear friend Mario, but I don't understand how he is going to reconcile the position that we tried to move just on the DREAM Act, which is, again, incremental. We voted for it. Mario voted for it. I voted for it. When it got to the Senate, they couldn't get 60 votes just to get to a vote.

They had 55 votes. Where you don't have the support that is needed is just a handful of Republicans. If we don't have that in the Senate, you're never going to get to the 60-vote threshold and you're never going to get to a vote. And that's what's happening in the United States Congress today.

KING: And Congressman Diaz-Balart, as you want to use this as an issue against the president, if you would like to go to your community and say he didn't even keep his promise, he didn't send us the legislation, whether we passed it or not, don't you have a problem in that the Republican Party has an image crisis, I will call it, right now in the Latino community in many ways?

And to what degree do you disagree with your candidate, Governor Romney, on some of his proposals on this issue?

DIAZ-BALART: No, I have publicly disagreed on some of his proposals on this issue.

And Charlie and I are good friends, but let's not forget the president didn't even introduce legislation his first two years. He broke that promise. The DREAM Act, which, by the way, one of the original sponsors of that was my brother, then Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, when the president all of a sudden decided to move forward on it -- Senator Harry Reid didn't, because he had a tough election in his state -- he didn't even talk to any of the Republicans who were the sponsors, including myself -- and my brother was the original sponsor of that legislation, along with a Democrat.

So, again the question is, is it being done for political reasons or are they generally trying to get it done? Is this president trying to get it done? And I think the problem that he is having is that people are understanding that he is no different from any other politician that goes through this town, promises, promises, promises, whether it's that he's going to cut the deficit in half in his first term, whether he was going to have no lobbyists in his administration, you name it.

This is another one of these typical political promises. And that's why I think it is -- people are frankly upset. Now, I would like to tell you that the Republicans have been much better. And, there, I will tell you, no, they haven't. On this issue, both President Obama and the Democrats and the Republicans frankly have been -- I think have left a lot to be desired.

But for the president to claim that it is other people's fault, he tries to do that with everything. This is his watch. He had a total majority in the House and the Senate. He didn't even try to get it done in his first two years. Now that it is election season, he blames others.

You know, Mr. President, stop blaming others for everything that you haven't accomplished. It is time to step up, show the legislation, show me the beef. Where is the legislation that the president has offered?

KING: Congressman Gonzalez, I will let you have the last word.

GONZALEZ: Please.

KING: But to this point that -- your colleague makes a passionate case. All -- the president could cut off half of that argument if he just sent a piece of legislation up, even if he knew it wasn't going to pass.

GONZALEZ: Let me put it in the proper perspective here.

This is the difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The bill that Mario and I voted for that was five votes shy of getting the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, let's say they reached it. They have 55 votes. We know it would have passed.

Mitt Romney would have vetoed that bill. That is the difference between President Obama's commitment to getting along with everyone in the Senate and in the House to at least get the DREAM Act out. You got Mitt Romney out there that is already saying he would veto it.

I don't understand where Mario actually is coming from on this particular issue. We should all be sponsoring comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act. Let's see if we can get a vote.

But I think you know, Mario, that you're not going to get a majority of the vote in the Republican-controlled House.

KING: I'm going to call a time-out on this evening.

Gentlemen, I appreciate you coming in.

But we will get to the questions about Governor Romney's record as well. I will be happy to have both of you back in to discuss this as we continue forward in the campaign.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

KING: Thank you both so much for coming in. It is important and, as you can see, rather feisty issue sometimes. 

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