Sen. Joe Lieberman on New Immigration Bill

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 16, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, keeping illegal immigrants is one issue, but my next guest says that if America wants to stay on top, it needs to let more highly skilled workers in. He has just introduced a bill on Capitol Hill that would do just that, making folks like Bill Gates very happy. With us now, independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Senator, good to have you. What is this about?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: This is about reversing a brain drain and making sure that when a lot of foreign students, for instance, are educated here in America, that they can stay here and contribute to our economy ,come up with the bright ideas that will create new companies, that will create new jobs.

We have something now called the H-1B visa. There is a cap of 65,000 a year. These are highly skilled, foreign technologists, scientists, engineers, mathematicians. In April, when the door opened for applications for these, there were more than 65,000 the first day. It went up to 130,000 the second day, and they closed them off and held a lottery for who could come in.

I say if these high-quality people want to come in and they are not taking jobs from Americans, let us bring them on. And it will be good for our economic growth. So this is…

CAVUTO: Well, how do you prevent.

LIEBERMAN: …bipartisan.

CAVUTO: I'm sorry, Senator, but how do you prevent bad guys from getting in?

LIEBERMAN: You mean, like terrorists?


LIEBERMAN: Oh, they will go through a security screen. There is no problem with that. To the extent that at least as much as people coming in on other kinds of visas, that come into the country, and a little more because they will be staying here for some period of time.

But you know, we have a history of immigrants and foreign-born scientists, technologists, contributing enormously to our economy with bright ideas that create whole new industries.

So I think this is a way to keep America growing and innovating. And people want to come here, why stop them?

CAVUTO: All right. This is something that is co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Hagel, who, by the way, has expressed interest in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg running for president. What do think of that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, first, I mean, it is a bipartisan bill. We have got Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska; Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Oregon; and George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio.

Hard to know what to make of Chuck Hagel's comments. He is obviously disaffected with the Republican Party. He seems to be thinking about the possibility of running as a third party candidate. I gather Mike Bloomberg is.

I will tell you, and I saw this, Neil, as you know, last year, my campaign denied the Democratic nomination in a primary, kept running as an independent, got elected by members of all three, that is, Democrat, Republican, independent, in Connecticut.

People are fed up with the partisanship. And if the two major parties go too far to the left and right, respectively, and just seem to be playing politics as usual, just get the other guy, do not get anything done for the country, I think there is going to be an opening for a third-party candidacy. And Mike Bloomberg would be one interesting candidate.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Senator, all of the premier Democratic presidential candidates who are voting for this March 31st '08 timetable for getting out of Iraq. And it was shot down to defeat today. But you claimed earlier today: "You cannot claim to be committed to defeating Al Qaeda while demanding that we abandon the heart of the Middle East to Al Qaeda."

Do you think leading Democrats are?

LIEBERMAN: I do. And I am sad to have to say that. I was very disappointed to see both first Senator Reid join Senator Feingold, the Democratic Senate leader, then a Senator Obama and Senator Clinton today in supporting basically a mandated retreat from Iraq by a date certain next March regardless of how we are doing now, and in the middle of a new policy, new general, new troops, which actually is showing some encouraging, if early, signs of success.

And I don't buy the arguments. They say, let's pull out of Iraq so we can fight the terrorists and Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is who we are fighting in Iraq. If we pull out of Iraq, it is Al Qaeda and Iran that will win. And they are our two most serious enemies in the world today.

So I believe that we have got — we could still win this, and winning it means creating enough stability so the Iraqis take over themselves. And I think it would be a disaster to mandate a withdrawal and pull out. We still have a chance there and it is worth fighting for.

CAVUTO: So given that view and given that prominent Democrats who are running for your party's presidential nomination, Senator, it does not sound like you could support any of them?

LIEBERMAN: That is a logical question. I have not made up my mind yet. It is serious business. To me, the threat of Islamist terrorism, and that is who we are fighting in Iraq today, is the most serious challenge to our security that we face.

Obviously, we have other challenges and opportunities. Fixing our health care system, doing something to make our schools work for all of our kids, including the poorest kids, doing something about global warming, economic competitiveness.

So I am standing back and watching. I am really going to approach this presidential campaign as an independent. I am going to wait to see who the presumptive nominees are next year of the two major parties, see if there is a third-party candidate, and then support whichever one of those nominees for president I think will serve our country best, regardless of party.

So, Iraq policies by the Democratic candidate for president are disappointing me, but it is too early to make a decision.

CAVUTO: All right. Al Gore has still not indicated whether he will run. Would you support him if he were?

LIEBERMAN: Well, that is a real hypothetical. I will always be grateful — I don't think Al is going to run. I believe what he says. But he has not talked to me about it. And you know, I have been disappointed by some of the things he has done since 2000, but honestly I will be forever grateful to him for single-handedly giving me a history-making opportunity to run for vice president as the first Jewish-American to have that opportunity. So...


CAVUTO: Let me ask you, though — OK. But you are a third-party candidate who successfully won, and substantially won in Connecticut. Could an independent do that nationally?

LIEBERMAN: I think an independent could. And — but it depends. And what it depends on is who the two major parties nominate and whether they seem to be really talking about what they are going to do for the people or whether they spend most of their time trying to knock down each other, because the public is fed up with that.

Look, Neil, the — our history does not give much encouragement to third-party candidates for president. Probably the last successful one was Abraham Lincoln. That was a pretty great one. But third-party candidacies, even if they don't win, if they are — if they get a significant number of votes, they tend to wake up and influence the direction of the two major parties.

And I hope it is not necessary to pull the two parties out of the kind of partisan death cycle they are in. But if it is, I hope somebody does it.

CAVUTO: All right. Senator, always good seeing you. Thank you very much.

LIEBERMAN: Great to see you. Have a good one.

CAVUTO: You too.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Senator Joseph Lieberman.

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