Arizona Democratic Representative Ed Pastor will talk about congressional issues such as immigration reform and military action in Syria.
José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. President Obama wants lawmakers to weigh in on whether to use military force in Syria. Here now to talk about the situation along with other issues is representative Ed Pastor of Arizona's 7th congressional district. Congressman, Ed Pastor always good to have you on this show.
Ed Pastor: Good to see you.
José Cárdenas: And we tend to have you on when things are popping all over the place. It's the big news right now is Syria. Some members of the congressional delegation have already indicated where they're leaning. Congressman Grijalva said he's a no. Congressman Schweikert and Gosar have indicated that they're probable noes, as well. The rest of the delegation, what can you tell us about them?
Ed Pastor: I think they're undecided at this point. I saw Ron Barber this week and Ron told me that he was going to go back and look at the resolution. I think a big issue is the resolution itself. The Senate foreign relations committee passed their resolution, which is very limited, 60 days, 30 days afterwards, and senator McCain added another criteria that Obama has to look at what he's going to do in the civil war in Syria. He felt that the resolution wasn't strong enough. We have -- we're tired of war. Iraq, Afghanistan, and so I think right now, as I understand, over 50 percent of the population doesn't want to go in there. But I don't think there's any question the regime used nerve gas. 1,400 people died, a great number of that is children and women and the president was right, there is a red line but the red line was drawn back after World War I and things have changed a lot. So I think the president finds himself in a situation where he said they crossed the red line, we have to do something, he looked around and Britain said no way, we won't go. France has not really engaged. Russia and China are totally against it. Iraq is against it. So now, he decided to come to Congress and so the same feelings and the split that you have in this country about doing something is there in Congress and so the resolution that passed the Senate committee was 10 to 7. So that indicates to me that maybe they don't even have the 60 votes to pass that resolution out of the Senate.
José Cárdenas: And where are you on this?
Ed Pastor: I'm going to go back and I'm going to look at the situation. What will be the determining factor for me, what will be the consequences? Everybody talks about national security. Well, I see national security in terms of if we do a strike, as limited as it may be, what will be the ramifications for the countries around Syria? You have Israel, you have Lebanon, you have Turkey, and you have Iraq and not too far, you have Iran. And so that whole area obviously is in turmoil because of civil war. So I'm going to be involved in some classified hearings to see what will be the limited and tangible strike, where they're going to strike, what type of assets they're going to strike and so I think once I get that information, I will probably be in a better position to make up my mind.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk about another very hot issue, that doesn't seem to generate as much discussion over the recess as people thought it would and that's immigration. People thought over the recess there would be mounting opposition to immigration reform but that doesn't seem to have occurred.
Ed Pastor: No, because I think what happened is that the advocates of immigration really pushed in terms of keeping the attention to go positive and as you know here in Phoenix, we had a number of advocates, dreamers, who protested in front of ICE. You had groups of dreamers that were out canvassing Matt Salmon's congressional district. They were at his town hall. So I think you had most of the debate and it was led by senator McCain and Senator Flake that Arizona had to get on the bandwagon and be more supportive of immigration reform.
José Cárdenas: What's going to happen when you go back? Are you going to be able to address this right away?
Ed Pastor: The first issue we're going to address right away is the obviously resolution on Syria. And then September 30th is the end of the fiscal year for FY13. So that means we have to adopt the continuing resolution that will keep the government going forward from October 1st forward into 2014. So the issue is for how long will this continuing resolution be? For the amount of money and how will speakers play a role and will it get the votes either in the house or the Senate because you have a group of people in the house that want to cut further and you have a group of people who will say the cuts are too much and so that debate will take us into September 30th and maybe a little beyond. So those two issues are paramount in September. I believe that the judiciary committee in the house will continue to look at four or five different bills and maybe pass them out of the committee and some have been passed out of the committee and maybe in October, we'll be able to see floor action on some of the immigration related bills in the house.
José Cárdenas: What do you think of the proposals to have a separate bill for the dreamers and have that be the only group that is eligible for citizenship?
Ed Pastor: Well, I believe that even the dreamers themselves will tell you they want the whole family. The big issue has been the separation of families. But I think that as we go along, it may become an issue that kids who were brought here at a young age and may be given a pathway to citizenship and the older generation may be only given a status of being able to stay here legally. So that may be a decision that's further down the road. At this point in my decision making, I will support an immigration bill that provides a pathway of citizenship to all the people who are undocumented. So that's my position right now.
José Cárdenas: Are we going to see comprehensive immigration reform, either one big bill or a series of bills?
Ed Pastor: The only way you're going to see is if the Senate who already has passed their comprehensive bill is willing to take the five separate bills and there's not a commonality. Both bills will have E-verify. Both bills will visa reform; both bills will have something to do with agriculture visas, border security will be in both bills. And in the house bill, we may only deal with the dreamers having a pathway to citizenship and the other undocumented, the oldest generation only have a legal status. So if the Senate and the house agree to take the five separate bills of the house, the comprehensive bill of the Senate and meet at the conference and find how they can draft a common bill, a conference bill, then that will come back to the house and you will have a chance to have it adopted, there will be a debate but no amendments and the Senate will do the same thing with that conference bill. That would be the only mechanism I see right now to having a comprehensive or maybe a comprehensive immigration bill.
José Cárdenas: And what's the earliest we are likely to see that?
Ed Pastor: Late October. Probably into November, December.
José Cárdenas: You touched on this subject a little bit earlier in terms of what's waiting for you when you go back to Washington, but what about the budget? You have a group of Republicans threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Obamacare is defunded. Is that going to happen?
Ed Pastor: Well, you may have that issue first show itself up with funding Obamacare in the continuing resolution. There has been some senators, conservative Republicans saying that we should shut down the government because October 1st is the implementation of Obamacare and if you're going to stop Obamacare, you want to do it September 30th. So either you waive the individual mandate or you defund it through the continuing resolution because that takes you into fiscal year of â€˜14. So that may be probably the first instance where you'll see the debate over Obamacare and continuing to fund it.
José Cárdenas: What do you think is going to happen?
Ed Pastor: From what I see, I don't think that that will be an issue. It may become an issue, but I think the continuing resolution and nobody wants to shut down the government in terms of people who want to see the government continue at the level that's decided. So then the lifting of the debt ceiling will be where Obamacare may become a factor again. That will be probably sometime in mid-October.
José Cárdenas: One of the issues that's hot, no pun intended right now in Arizona, is the Yarnell fire, the controversy over the federal government's decision not to provide emergency disaster relief.
Ed Pastor: Well, FEMA has an assessment, a way of assessing damage, insurance, those factors, and make a determination to see whether or not the damage and the destruction, the tragedy, was enough to declare the federal emergency so that you can have assistance be delivered. FEMA said that they felt that at this point it did not meet those standards. The governor is going to appeal and during the appeal process, there's a letter supporting Yarnell signed by the congressional delegation, all nine of us are going to sign it. The irony of the whole thing is that people who were against the funding of the relief to the hurricane victims, Sandy, are now the ones saying that we need to get relief in this particular situation. My belief has always been when you have a national emergency, or an emergency that is damaging, whether it be Yarnell or the hurricane or Katrina or an earthquake, that as American citizens, as neighbors, we help our neighbors. And so we provide the emergency care. But I see more and more reluctance on behalf of people who say I don't want to help anybody else but then when it happens to them, they run and say hey, we need the assistance. So I find it ironic that there's a great inconsistency in how we're doing it. But I support the emergency aid to Yarnell and as the entire delegation will support it.
José Cárdenas: Last topic and we're almost out of time. The delegation itself, new members, you're the senior member of the delegation.
Ed Pastor: Dean.
José Cárdenas: The dean, yes. So how do you view it in terms of the relationships within the delegation, better or worse?
Ed Pastor: We now started again to have breakfast but we've had a number of breakfasts and the delegation has been good about participating. Yarnell is a good example. Congressmen Gosar is circulating the letters he represents the areas. All nine of us are going to sign the letter in support of the appeal. Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and Congressman Gosar recently had a joint town hall on resolution copper. There's great relationships I think with Congresswoman Cinema and Congressman Salmon because I noticed and I've been involved in some of their work. Congressman Grijalva and Gosar have worked on some other issues dealing with public lands. So I think we may differ on issues but I think when it comes to commonalities where it's Arizona and important for Arizona, we come together or if it's an issue where two members or three members find a commonality -- I've signed a number of letters that are being circulated by my colleagues, Republican or Democrat. I'm very optimistic.
José Cárdenas: We may find the Arizona delegation is a model for the rest of the Congress. It's good to see you as always and look forward to having you back on the show.
Ed Pastor: I'm looking forward to Chapito Chavarria.
Ed Pastor:Democratic Representative, Arizona