A conversation with Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor about immigration reform, the debt ceiling, gun control, and other issues.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. Democratic U.S. representative Ed Pastor was reelected to his 12th term in Arizona's reconfigured 7th congressional district. He is here tonight to talk About the latest from capitol hill and current events.
Ed Pastor: Thank you for the invitation.
Jose Cardenas: Always an honor to have you. It has been awhile. I want to start with the big event that happened since the last time you were here. That of course is the elections. Let's focus first on Arizona, the new makeup of the representation. It is now in the house of representatives, 5-4 democrat, is that a surprise.
Ed Pastor: No, when we started on the redistricting, obviously the objective was to get the max that we could in terms of democrats. And working with people who knew how to deal with redistricting, the maps and logistics. We felt that the map that was finally adopted by the redistricting commission would give us the result of 5-4.
Jose Cardenas: What about the Carmona election, and the race, did you expect it to be closer?
Ed Pastor: I expected Carmona to actually win. I felt that he had a great shot after the primary, tough primary that Jeff flake had. My disappointment I think one of the problems was that during that primary season, Carmona did not have an opponent and he could have used probably that time to identify himself in a positive manner, but for whatever reason, the money that the Senate campaign committee had promised him had not come down. I think it would have been a lot closer if the strategy had been different.
Jose Cardenas: Do you see a future for him at Arizona politics, state level or running for Senate?
Ed Pastor: I understand that he probably is looking for a governor's race. I have heard that. I don't know. The next election for Senate, I'm sure you will have many other young politicians who are around and may want to run for that seat. It will be probably a bill that will be more crowded.
Jose Cardenas: Going back to Congress and specifically the house of representatives, the democrats did pick up seats. Arizona is one example of that. But still the minority party. What do you see in terms of grid lock going forward? Are there still great concerns there?
Ed Pastor: It was interesting. The last three major votes, fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, lifting of the debt ceiling or postponing it, and the hurricane, relief money, was basically passed by a majority of the minority. And at one time, the speaker, speaker Boehner said that the legislation would pass from the house with the majority of the majority, first three major bills that have passed in the house this year have been with the majority of the minority. So, that means 88 to 100 democrats have voted for the legislation and has made it basically a bipartisan effort.
Jose Cardenas: What do you see going forward though? Is that simply a reflection on those particular issues, republicans realize they're going to get the blame, if, for example, the government shuts down. Do you see them being more cooperative?
Ed Pastor: It is not a matter of cooperation. I think the deal is the leadership of the caucus, working with the caucus and trying to find the best way to govern, and if they stay with the objective of majority by the majority, then they're going to have difficult times passing legislation that would pass the Senate. And so I think we have shown that we can do bipartisan legislation if this leadership of the republican caucus allows the Congress to do its will. Bring a bill out and see where it goes.
Jose Cardenas: Let's switch to the Senate. With respect to Arizona, we lost one ever the most senior members of the Senate in senator Kyl and now you have senator flake. What do you think will be the difference there?
Ed Pastor: Well, I think senator Kyl obviously had the seniority, and he was in the leadership position. He was the second person in the republican caucus in the Senate. And obviously Jeff is a new member. But Jeff already has got himself in the judiciary and the foreign OPS committee, and other committees that are important, and I think Jeff is going to work his way and be involved in the national scene in many issues.
Jose Cardenas: One of the big issues facing Congress is perhaps one of the most controversial you can have and that is gun control in light of the Newtown tragedy. Where do you see that one going?
Ed Pastor: It will be interesting. In 1994, when we had the vote on banning assault weapons, I supported the ban and it passed. And since then, I think things have changed dramatically in terms of the politics of the second amendment, the interest groups, etc. But people are becoming cognizant that gun violence is something that we need to address. I believe that on the checking, universal checks may be something that may happen. You may have something to deal with, mental health situation, but when you get to the subject, possibly magazine capacity, might be a -- but when you get to banning the assault weapon, I think that will be very difficult only because special interest groups that are unequivocal in terms of the second amendment.
Jose Cardenas: What about some of the other tough fiscal issues coming up? Debt ceiling got pushed down, but the sequestration in March.
Ed Pastor: Sequestration was something that nobody wanted. That was a deal we made a year ago because we were wanting to lift the debt ceiling at the time. Legislation that passed. My assumption is that you -- you have two events coming up. Sequestration, and also the continued resolution that funds the government for 2013 is going to expire in March. And so I would hope that the house and the Senate decide to work on the continuance of the government from 2013 and use bill -- some type of legislation that would bring the cuts that are agreed to between the democrats and the republicans so that sequestration will be avoided and at the same time avoid a government shutdown.
Jose Cardenas: A lot of talk this last week about the president's inaugural speech. Complaints from republicans that he was overly aggressive, but as some of -- intent on annihilating the republican party. What is your take on what the president had to say?
Ed Pastor: I think he realizes that, like any second termer, re-election is not a priority because it is not going to happen, and so I think now he needs to -- and wants to deal with legislation, he thinks it is important. Since he won re-election and he won convincingly with -- I think he is going to want to put his mark down and say, you know, I'm willing to fight for some of these things in the second term that may be the first term I would not have stood so tall.
Jose Cardenas: A part of his Victory, many thing attributable to the Hispanic vote, which he won overwhelmingly. That seems to have influenced a number of other things as well. We will get to the most important one perhaps, immigration. But before we do that, controversy by the diversity into the president's cabinet. He is losing two Hispanics. Your thoughts about that is that an issue?
Ed Pastor: Well, it is an issue. He wants to have his cabinet look like America. And the fastest population that is growing in this country is the Hispanic population. So I think he is -- secretary LaHood, secretary of transportation, is not going to continue. So, I don't know what is going to happen to commerce and department of energy. So, there are still other cabinet positions that the president is going to have an opportunity to look to the Hispanic community and possibly select not only more Hispanics, but women. You may see the first gay cabinet member. So I think president is going to have more opportunities down the road to be able to add more diversity to his cabinet.
Jose Cardenas: Congressman -- name mentioned for a possible replacement --
Ed Pastor: The interest is coming from the environmental groups. And so, I think that that is a possibility, but obviously there are other people that also are being considered and many of them are western governors. We will see, hopefully I would be very happy if he became secretary of the interior, because obviously it would be very beneficial to Arizona and we have a history of Arizonans become secretary of interior, so Raul, it he makes it, our country will be well served by him.
Jose Cardenas: The big issue this week, immigration. Bipartisan group of senators announce their plan on Monday, and President Obama gave a speech on Tuesday outlining his. They seem to be very similar. The president expressed support generally for the senator's proposal. What is your take on all of this?
Ed Pastor: I think both groups indicated that dealing with immigration goes back many years. And many of the principles that both of the groups brought out were discussed and passed years -- in past years and past legislation. There is similarity, but I would tell you that the devil is in the detail, because legislation has to be written and will be written with some detail, and so from the principles, you know, you have to get to the detail. One of the things that I saw with the bipartisan group was they connected border security with the pathway to legalization. And I found that somewhat disappointing because border security deals with how do you secure the border and to me it is a separate -- separate and apart from the issue of pathway to legalization because you're dealing with people who have been here in many cases many years and brought over by children and now have families, U.S. citizens, and so I was disappointed with the coupling of those two issues.
Jose Cardenas: Any disappointments in the president's proposal?
Ed Pastor: Well, I think one of the matters that needs to be discussed both by the republican bipartisan group, as well as the president, is that the reality that this country is going to need workers in the future. Our population is dwindling. We are not producing kids like we did. If we want to have a robust economy, reality is that we are going to need foreign workers at all sectors, and not just the brightest and -- and neither one of them have talked about what they're going to do in terms of the Visas that would allow some of the guest workers to come in. What would be the rights and privileges that they would have. And so I -- still great -- you want to secure the border, you want to make sure that there is a way that a person who wants to work, wherever that person is coming from and has a willing employer and all of them talk about having an employer that has responsibilities to verify, if you -- if you feel the work force, then there won't be a need for people to cross undocumented. I think security can be built with a strong program, guest worker program.
Jose Cardenas: A lot more to talk about. Thank you so much.
Ed Pastor: Thank you.