With Congress on its summer break, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, took time Wednesday to stop by the Press to discuss important issues and talk a little politics. One of the issues was immigration reform.
The 1st District congressman says House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised not to bring the issue to the floor until a majority of the majority (Republicans, of course) agree the bill it is voting on adequately tackles border security. Roe said the immigration bill approved by the Senate doesn’t do that.
Until that concern is satisfied, there will be no House vote on a pathway to citizenship. And Roe says he and his GOP colleagues are in no hurry to settle the issue before next year’s midterm elections. Immigration reform, Roe told us, shouldn’t be rushed through the House like Obamacare was.
Not everyone agrees. Poll after poll has found a majority of Americans supporting some type of legislation to allow immigrants living in this country illegally to remain here legally. A poll released last month found 63 percent of Americans support the pathway to citizenship as outlined in the Senate bill.
And as you can see by Alejandro Vazquez’s column on this page today, members of the faith community are also calling for compassionate immigration reform. Even so, Roe (who has also authored a column that appears here today) said he and his colleagues will not be pushed into a vote on immigration like senators were. He said some lawmakers are too easily intimidated by the pro-immigration advocates wearing pink T-shirts.
Republicans in the House, he says, are made of sterner stuff. Many of the House members are also beneficiaries of redistricting maps drawn to protect Republicans and shield most of them from the immigration issue.
Even if the Republican-led House did approve immigration reform, Roe says it would not necessarily win his party the Hispanic vote. But that’s not the reason Republicans are moving so cautiously on a pathway to citizenship. It’s about principles, Roe told me.
He said he isn’t disappointed to hear Congress (the House in particular) labeled as the most unproductive in more than 70 years for not addressing long-standing issues like immigration. There’s already “a plethora of laws,” Roe said, and he doesn’t think passing more will help.
He’s also not overly surprised by the dismal public approval ratings for Congress. One reason Congress is so unpopular these days, Roe told Press staff writer Nathan Baker, is the 24-hour news cycle. It’s true — politicians used to be able to hide behind the deadlines of the print media. Not anymore.
Roe noted things today are not as simple as they were back when Jimmy Quillen represented the 1st District. That’s true. I wonder if any of Quillen’s quips would have gone viral?
Today, every off-hand comment (no matter how innocent, silly or stupid) a politician makes gets tweeted, YouTubed and Facebooked to death. That’s true transparency. And it holds politicians accountable for their words, regardless of who they say them to and where.
Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.