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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript - Immigration Reform


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SMERCONISH: We`re back.

Late today, with Vice President Biden presiding, the Senate passed a massive immigration overhaul bill, the vote, 68-32. About a dozen Republicans crossed party lines and voted for the measure, no doubt thanks to a recent amendment which adds 20,000 new agents along the border, in addition to 700 miles of fencing.

Despite that, the bill failed to win any support among the Republican leadership. Now the spotlight turns to the GOP-controlled House, where reform faces a much greater challenge. In a statement praising the Senate`s work, President Obama said: "Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen."Senator Robert Menendez is a Democrat from New Jersey. He`s member of the Senate`s gang of eight, which crafted the legislation.

Senator, I made reference to the fact that there will be 20,000 new border agents. Someone has noted that that`s one every 1,000 or so feet. What else is left to offer to accommodate those in the GOP-controlled House? I thought security was their beef.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, it certainly was one of the critical elements that got us to 14 Republican votes in the Senate. It`s the most significant border efforts.

We`re willing to listen to the House`s views. We would love to see them take our bill. It was created through bipartisan compromise. It had bipartisan votes. Over two-thirds of the Senate voted for this legislation, so we look forward to the House meeting the same challenge that we met in the Senate and responding to the American people`s desire to see immigration reform.

SMERCONISH: House Speaker John Boehner isn`t impressed by the Senate vote. This is Speaker Boehner earlier today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We`re going to do our own bill through regular order.

And it will be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people.


SMERCONISH: And "The Washington Post" reports -- quote -- "House Republican Deputy Whip Peter Roskam said Thursday morning the Senate immigration bill likely won`t come to a vote in the House, labeling it a pipe dream. `The House has no capacity to move that bill in its entirety,` he said."

Are there areas of reconciliation, areas of agreement between that which they envision and what you have already passed, or are you just not sure what they have on their mind?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, I`m not sure what they have on their mind.

And, look, the House can have its own process. We will get to -- I would like them to take up our Senate bill. As I said, it`s bipartisan, strong vote. The speaker may not be impressed, but we rarely get 60 votes in the United States Senate these days for any momentous piece of legislation and anything that might be considered controversial.

We got 68. That`s more than you need to ratify a treaty for the United States. So it`s an incredible vote. We respect the House`s process. The question is, does the House leadership want to get to yes? Does the House leadership agree that, as one of the core elements of immigration reform, in addition to security, there must be a pathway to citizenship?

And if the answer to those are yes, then we can ultimately get to a bipartisan bill that we can pass in both houses and send finally to the president. I hope that the leadership in the House, particularly on the Republican side that controls the majority, will allow the House to truly work its will, because if you insist on a majority of the majority, as Speaker Boehner has said, that is a minority of the House of Representatives.

And a minority should not take to dictate the future of millions of lives of people in this country, the security of the nation and the prosperity of America.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Senator Robert Menendez.


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