Rep. Trey Gowdy offers a fine moment of snark before getting down to business on immigration reform on Fox News Sunday. John Roberts opens the segment by asking Gowdy about Senator Chuck Schumer’s advice to Republicans to quickly pass the Gang of Eight bill in order to survive over the next several years. Gowdy declines to take Schumer’s advice, and instead insists that the House will take a border-security-first approach (via RCP and Scott Johnson):
JOHN ROBERTS: I assume you heard Senator Schumer talking about immigration. He is fairly positive, he has a bold prediction: the House eventually will pass the Senate bill. What do you say?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R-S.C.): Well, I was moved, almost to the point of tears, by Senator Schumer’s concern for the future prospects of the Republican Party, but we’re going to not take his advice. The Senate bill is not going to pass the House. It’s not going to pass for myriad reasons. I support immigration reform; I think the current system is broken. But our framers gave us two legislative bodies, and I assume that they did it for a reason. The House runs every two years with the theory that we will be closer to the will of the people.
So, under the assumption that the framers meant to give us two legislative bodies and a House of Representatives with 435 members, we are going to work our will, like we have been doing for the past weeks. We have passed four separate bills out of House Judiciary and an additional bill out of Homeland Security. We’re making progress, and we will continue to do so. I’m more interested in getting it right than doing it on Senator Schumer’s schedule.
ROBERTS: Both Senator Schumer and Senator McCain, and I’m sure you’ve heard them both say this. There’s a lot of pressure being brought to bear on the House from a varied coalition of groups, some of whom have not traditionally sided with the democrats on much, let alone immigration. You’re got the U.S. chamber of commerce, you’ve got the growers, you’ve got labor unions, law enforcement and you have many churches who are saying to Republicans across the land, it’s time to pass immigration reform. Will you be able to resist the pressure that’s coming from those groups?
GOWDY: No, I don’t think it’s a question of resisting. I think it’s a question of meeting with the groups. And I have met with every one of those groups multiple times. The issue is not the broad principles of immigration reform and humanity and respect of the rule of law. Virtually everybody agrees on the broad principles. Where we have a difference of opinion are the details. So, everyone agrees on border security, for instance. But I cannot sell in South Carolina a border security plan where the security comes after the legalization. I can’t sell a border security plan where Janet Napolitano gets to tell us the border is secure. I can’t tell sell a border security plan when the executive can turn on and off triggers for politically expedient reasons, nor would I try to sell any of those plans.
You can agree in theory on border security but disagree very strongly on how it is achieved. You can agree on a path to legalization or citizenship, but whether border security is a condition precedent, which it would be in my case, is a very important distinction. I welcome the input of all these constituents and particularly the faith community. That matters greatly to me, as does law enforcement. Take the law enforcement for a second. The House plan allows state and local law enforcement to assist, if they want to, if they want to, to assist federal law enforcement in enforcing our immigration laws. That is non-starter in the Senate. The Senate is fine with law enforcement enforcing every other category of crime, from child pornography to murder to narcotics trafficking to bank robbery, but heaven forbid they get involved in immigration. The reason we have two bodies, the reason you have debate so you can take these broad principles and actually write them into legislation. And that is what we’re trying to do right now.
Gowdy is right — there is a broad consensus on how to solve immigration reform. It consists of border security, an overhaul of the visa system, employment verification, and eventual normalization of most of the 11 million or so inside the US now. The question is of sequencing and trust. No one trusts the government to follow through on border security, thanks to 27 years of inaction and broken promises, which is why that has to be first in sequence — and why it has to be Congress that authorizes the rest of the sequence, not Janet Napolitano or any other executive branch figures, and certainly not the courts. The only way to garner enough confidence from the people that the border is sufficiently secured is to leave that conclusion in the hands of the people’s branch of government, along with the border states impacted most by the issue. Had Corker-Hoeven actually accomplished that, there wouldn’t be any controversy in the House in passing it.
Gowdy offers more on Lois Lerner and the Oversight Committee’s resolution that she waived her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination by declaring her innocence in a statement. “Unless your name is Jack Bauer, you can’t make someone talk,” Gowdy joked. “What you can do is incent them to talk.” Gowdy doesn’t mention it, but that’s a big hint about a grant of limited immunity.