Will Katrina Derail Immigration Reform?

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Congress had been expected to take up the issue of immigration reform (search) this fall, but that was before Katrina (search). The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has predicted the subject now won't be addressed until next year.

Joining us now, Congressman Tom Tancredo (search). The Colorado Republican is a leading advocate of immigration reform.

So, is it possible to say that the situation, Congressman, right now is, adios, reforma?


GIBSON: It is not going to be this year?

REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: Well, I don't know. It's kind of a strange thing, because, on Thursday, I understand that the president called some members — not me — but other members down to the White House to ask them their opinion about his plan, his new plan for an immigration bill.

And so, I think it is going to follow the lines of the McCain-Kennedy bill — or I call the McKennedy bill. And it doesn't sound good to me, but he is going to push it. They are going to push it, according to Karl Rove (search), they are going to come over to the Hill some time this fall with it in the next couple of months.

So, who knows? I hope, believe me, that if it is anything that resembles the McCain-Kennedy bill, that it doesn't get very far, that it doesn't get past the Senate.

GIBSON: But does it seem, Congressman, that, even though people were very interested in immigration reform, that Katrina has, you know, removed all the air from the room, that there really is not enough oxygen to breathe in reform right now?

TANCREDO: Well, I think that is perhaps true.

And I have talked to a couple of the senators who were very involved, very interested in trying to push some legislation on their side. And even they say that they don't think anything is going to happen until at least next year. But this place is so unpredictable. I just don't know. There is going to be a lot of attention, of course, focused on Katrina.

I hope there is a lot of attention focus on Katrina. I hope there is a lot of attention focused on making sure that the money we are shoving out the door every day around here actually gets spent with some accountability built into it. So far, I have not seen that. So, I would be very interested in making sure that there is some accountability, number one, and that we figure out a way to pay for this.

You know, last night the president spoke. And, believe me, I love the president. In many ways, I support him. But didn't you get the impression — I mean, I will tell you how I felt when I was listening to him about this. I kept thinking, it made me feel like I was listening to the car salesman who kept telling me all about the good parts of the car. And every time I would think to myself or say, "How much is this going to cost?" he would say, well, now let's look at the air conditioning there. He never could get to the costs involved.

GIBSON: Congressman, but isn't the benchmark, I mean, just put it in very layman's terms, if we can blow $200 billion on Iraq, we can certainly spend $200 on New Orleans?

TANCREDO: We have got a lot of things we have to do. And that is exactly why we are in the position of now having to say, look, you can't just keep writing checks. And, so, I guarantee you, I'm going to propose anyway — and I'm sure others are — that we go back and look at some of the mandatory spending programs, because that is the only place you are going to raise this kind of money.

You can look at all of the discretionary funding you want, and, frankly, you are not going to come up with the dough. You have got to look at things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Those are the big-ticket items. But what about the $400 billion in the Medicaid program, Part D, the prescription drug plan? I'm going to say we have to put that away for a while. We have to push that off or not do it at all.

TANCREDO: I mean, there are big issues that we have got to deal with.

GIBSON: All right, keep an eye on the money and keep immigration reform.

Congressman, thank you.

TANCREDO: Will do. Thank you.

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