- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

Text of interview with House Majority Leader John A. Boehner can be found here.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner has become one of the most energetic supporters of the House immigration bill, but that has not always been the case. Last year, he was one of 17 Republicans to vote against the enforcement-only bill.

“I thought the Judiciary Committee work was haphazard, and I thought the employer provisions were nothing but unfunded mandates,” he told The Washington Times last week. “Requiring them to look at all workers — all their workers, not new hires, all their existing employees — there’s no system to verify that, and we’re talking about a huge database run by the federal government. Scares me to death.”

In addition, he said, the immigration bill was rushed through the House, thus giving his Education and the Workforce Committee only 24 hours to deal with the employer provisions over which it had jurisdiction.

“In hindsight, I was probably more angry about jurisdiction than I was about the provision itself,” said Mr. Boehner, adding that he otherwise would have supported the bill.

In any event, he doesn’t shy away from the toughness of the House bill, which many Democrats say is overly hostile toward illegal aliens who have come here to work and raise a family.

“I voted for the fence,” he said. “I voted for a lot of the amendments to make it tougher.”

Despite the huge gap between the House position on immigration and the Senate’s position that the up to 20 million illegal aliens currently in the United States eventually be granted citizenship rights, Mr. Boehner said he is optimistic that a compromise can be reached this year. In particular, he said, the House hearings regarding the flaws of the Senate bill have put House Republicans in a much stronger bargaining position.

“I’ve had senators talk to me — Democrats and Republicans — who want to move on,” he said. “Our hearings are having an effect on them. So, I think there’s a way to get there.”

Though no issue is more important for Republicans to “get right” than immigration reform, he said, the skyrocketing costs of Social Security and other federal entitlement costs are a “tsunami that’s racing right at us.”

“If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about it,” Mr. Boehner said.

After Mr. Bush won re-election in 2004, he made overhauling Social Security the centerpiece of his Capitol Hill agenda. But after months of opposition from Democrats, those Republican efforts collapsed. Among the most resounding arguments by Democrats was that Mr. Bush had not explicitly campaigned on introducing private Social Security accounts and, therefore, did not have any mandate for such a drastic move.

Mr. Boehner said Mr. Bush did not spend enough time explaining to Americans that the Social Security system is in dire straits.

“Politicians always start by talking about solutions to a problem that most people don’t know is a problem,” Mr. Boehner said. “That’s what got the president in trouble on Social Security. More time should have been spent laying out the problem.”

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