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Q: You’ve since become one of its biggest supporters.

A: As majority leader, it’s my job to ensure that our members get a good bill to vote on. Getting bills in shape to bring to the floor is an important part of my job. While most of that is done by the committees, there’s always a certain amount of massaging that has to be done to make sure it fits who we are as a party. When it comes to the immigration issue, there’s no issue more important on our agenda to get right than this bill. All you have to do is go back and look at the ‘86 act that had a few weak points to realize the ramifications that can occur if it’s not done right.

Secondly, on the politics. The politics of this are very touchy and are very difficult. So getting the policy and getting the politics right are really important for our members. It’s our job to lead on this effort.

Q: Isn’t there a good chance that voters say Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress and you can’t get this done?

A: We don’t know that yet. There’s a big debate about whether it’s better to do a bill before the election or do one after. Nobody knows the answer to that question.

The polling supports our position. What we’re going to do is go out and expose issues in the Reid-Kennedy [Senate] bill that don’t pass the straight-face test, which I think strengthens our hand as we negotiate with the Senate. And I can tell you, we are in a hundred times stronger position today than we were three months ago.

Q: Speaking of the straight-face test, why is it that you insist upon calling it the Reid-Kennedy bill when it was authored by Republicans and was pushed through the Senate by Republican leadership?

A: Because two-thirds of those who voted for it, all right, are Democrats.

Q: Senate Republicans were far more instrumental in passing the Senate bill than Democrats were.

A: Hey, we all have a job to do, and I’m doing mine. And it’s the Reid-Kennedy bill.

Q: One of the biggest obstacles for any guest-worker program is birthright citizenship, which means any child born on U.S. soil to a guest-worker automatically becomes a citizen. Do you support ending that right?

A: I’m not the expert on that issue. Trying to come to agreement with the Senate is gong to be very difficult, and you’ve watched me for three or four months and not really disclose anything about where I stand on anything. I don’t want to close anything out or bring anything in. We have enough problems without leadership running their lips about what the bill ought to look like.

Q: Irrespective of the current bill, do you support ending birthright citizenship?

A: I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Q: Many conservatives blame Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for passing the Senate bill that would grant citizenship rights for some 10 million illegal aliens. How much do you blame him?

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