- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, sat down this afternoon with reporters and an editor from The Washington Times. Here is a partial transcript of the wide-ranging interview.

Chris Dolan, bureau chief: We’ll start with immigration. With the Senate’s inability to get anything done on the immigration bill, [is the House] looking to do anything piecemeal?

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: It is an important topic. This is an item ironically on which the Democratic leadership essentially agreed with the president. It is an important item to address, and [we need] to address it in a comprehensive way.

[Speaker Nancy Pelosi and I] met with the president two days after the election … . One of the things we talked about working on was the immigration issue … we all agreed the immigration issue would take significant bipartisan participation by Republicans as well as Democrats, and of course we see now ever since the Senate passed its first bill last year, there has been an erosion on the Republican side of the aisle …

And now we see the president essentially has lost almost all influence in terms of getting people to agree with him … His own [House Republican] conference voted overwhelmingly 6 to 1 against his position … and not just the Republicans but the [Republican] leadership … and then [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell yesterday voted against it. So unfortunately, the president does not have much ability to get a significant number of his party to participate in a bipartisan way in comprehensive immigration reform. We’ve said all along it can’t be done in a partisan fashion.

It’s a very difficult matter … [The Senate was] 14 votes short; said another way, it was 35 percent short of what they needed to proceed, so whether or not we’ll proceed is problematic at best. Although I want to stress both Speaker Pelosi and I believe that comprehensive immigration reform is a policy that ought to be done.

Mr. Hoyer: If you break it apart, all the parts are controversial. The part that’s not controversial is that everybody agrees you need secure borders … nobody believes that we can have open borders, with thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people coming into the country. That’s not safe, and it’s not sustainable.

You move to some of the other items, it becomes more controversial … guest workers [and] employer sanctions.

The president says this is not amnesty. Republicans [say it is] amnesty. Republicans are deeply divided, much more divided than we are on this.

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