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WALLACE: Now to the showdown over immigration, the Senate spent months working on then passing a bipartisan package. Now they make it clear they're going to deal with immigration on their own terms.
Joining us: Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who calls the Senate plan amnesty.
And in New York, Congressman Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, charged with winning back the House from the GOP in 2014.
Gentlemen, before we get to immigration, I want to ask you both to weigh in on today's big story, of course, the not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. Local authorities originally decided not to prosecute Trayvon Martin, then civil rights groups, even the president stepped into the case and the decision was made to try him.
Congressman King, let me start with you.
Should George Zimmerman ever have been prosecuted?
REP. STEVE KING, R-IOWA: Well, from what I have seen of the evidence, I would say no. And my sympathy goes out also to the Martin family and the Zimmerman family for this ordeal that they've been through.
The evidence didn't support prosecution, and the Justice Department engaged in this, the president engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law and order.
So, I regret that this all happened. I'm sorry that it was turned into a race issue by the media. And otherwise, it would have been tried or not tried, depending on the laws and the language that was there. This is unfortunate.
WALLACE: Let me bring you into this, Congressman Israel.
As we mentioned, President Obama weighed in on this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My main message is--is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Israel, was this case more about politics and race than it was about seeking justice? And how do you feel about the idea the NAACP has suggested that the Department of Justice should now consider civil rights charges against George Zimmerman?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL, D-N.Y.: Well, Mr. Zimmerman had a right to trial by jury.
ISRAEL: The NAACP and others have a right to pursue their interests in terms of civil rights.
No matter where you stand, this was a tragedy. It's a tragedy for a young man who was killed. It's a tragedy for a young man who killed and will carry that around with him for the rest of his life.
It's an American tragedy. What we need to do is come together as a nation of laws, courts and civil rights.
WALLACE: All right, gentlemen. Let's turn to what we brought you here to talk about today, and that's immigration.
Speaker Boehner said he will not even bring the Senate bill up for a vote. He wants to deal with this in bite-sized chunks, and on the enforcement issue only -- nothing on legalization until the border is secure.
Congressman King, you say it's a mistake for the Republicans in the House to even do that. Why?
KING: First, it's a mistake for Republicans to believe the election was about immigration. I don't remember a debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on immigration. I remember waking up the morning of the 7th of November, after the election and hearing immigration was the reason that Mitt Romney wasn't president-elect on that day.
This has been driven by open borders advocates who have been doing this for a long time.
WALLACE: All right. Let me pick you up on this. Why not even do border enforcement, which is what House Republicans are talking about doing?
KING: There's nothing we can do to pass a law to force the president to enforce a law he doesn't like, which is why. He has proven it over and over again. We've taken him to court on the Morton Memos issue. We voted on that in the floor of the Congress, and my amendment here a few weeks, the president is not going to enforce the law. Harry Reid is not going to take up border enforcement.
They want this for a political issue. This is a big boon for Democrats. Whether Republicans--whether Republicans are willing to go along with this or not, if we pass something they're still going to get the credit for it in the White House. The president will sign a bill. They're going to continue to use this for political reasons.That's at the base of this. And some Republicans have been into this thinking we have to take it off the table by passing amnesty.
WALLACE: Congressman Israel, as you just heard from Steve King, President Obama, in a sense, gave Republicans a new talking point this week on their opposition to immigration reform when he announced that he is not going to enforce the employer mandate on Obamacare for a year.
Let's take a look at what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had to say this week.
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REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: If the president can selectively enforce a provision under Obamacare, what's to say he can't selectively enforce or not enforce a provision on border control and the immigration?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We should point out that Article II, Section III of the U.S. Constitution says, "The president shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
And the health care law says that the mandate shall begin after December 31st, 2013. So, Congressman Israel, let me ask you in effect the question that Eric Cantor asked. What's to say he wouldn't selectively enforce comprehensive immigration reform--yes, go ahead with legalization but not enforce the border measures?
ISRAEL: Look, we shall not use this as yet another excuse to obstruct the majority of the American people who support comprehensive immigration reform -- 68 senators who support comprehensive immigration reform, President George Bush and President Barack Obama who support it.
On the issue of enforcement, let's get away from the sound bites and understand fact. Under this president, deportations are at an all-time high. Border crossings are at an all-time low.
The Senate bill, which is a product of bipartisanship, and which I hope the House Republicans will allow us to vote upon, provides $40 billion for new border enforcement, doubles the number of border patrol agents. Senator McCain, who supports this bill, I believe, said this would be the most militarized border since the Berlin Wall.
If 68 senators agree this is enforceable and 87 percent of the American people want a comprehensive solution and George Bush and Barack Obama agree to this, the House Republican majority should not obstruct it. Having said that --
WALLACE: Let me--Congressman Israel, let me just ask you to answer my direct question. What's to say with all of this increase, $40 billion in new enforcement, it would be in the law, but the employer mandate was in ObamaCare? What's to say the president will enforce those new measures, which he has said he doesn't think are necessary?
ISRAEL: If you take a look at the facts and how this nation has enforced immigration laws, deportation, all time high.
WALLACE: I understand that. But what's to say he's going to enforce these new measures, sir?
ISRAEL: So, they have enforced this. My point is this. You're never going to have any perfection in government. I mean, I agree with that.
But are we going to continue to preserve the status quo? I mean, is enforcement--if you're going to make the enforcement issue, is this immigration system and enforcement really working? No, it's broken, which means we need to solve it and solve it on a bipartisan basis.
And, however the Republican leadership wants us to pursue this process, whether it's with one vote on the comprehensive bill or breaking it up into pieces, we will work with them to get to a bipartisan, comprehensive solution that strengthens our borders and provides a tough, but fair path to legalization for those who are here.
WALLACE: Let me bring Congressman King back in.
You say conservatives who support a path to citizenship, and that includes but a dozen Republicans in the Senate, including Marco Rubio, who support a path to citizenship, give up their right to be called conservatives. But here what the conservative editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" said about you. Put it up:
"The dumbest strategy is to follow the Steve King anti-immigration caucus and simply let the Senate bill die while further militarizing the border. The GOP can support a true conservative opportunity society or become a party of closed minds and borders."
Dumbest strategy, closed borders?
KING: I suspect that's Jason Riley. He and I have gone around a few times on this, and he has been less than with the original sources. And so, I think you could ask him and I'll say that's his language.
I would push "The Wall Street Journal's" opinion off to the side on this. They've been for open borders for a long time.
But I think Mr. Israel knows also the president is not enforcing current immigration law. We've taken him to court over the Morton Memos and the northern district of Texas, with Judge Reed O'Connor had--
WALLACE: Don't get too much in the weeds here, sir.
KING: Nine out of 10 arguments. We're there. nd we have a little bit more to clean up on this.
The president is already refusing to enforce existing immigration laws. He will not enforce the laws that we might pass. They won't get pass Harry Reid. He's proven that he's violated his own oath of office -- as you said, in Article II, Section III, to take care of the laws as faithfully executed.
So, the president's problem, this is not a legislative branch problem, not a legislative branch problem. We can't fix with laws the things that president refuses to do.
WALLACE: Congressman Israel, if House Republicans kill immigration reform, I think it's fair to say you, as we mentioned, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee, are going to hammer them as you try to win back the House for Democrats in 2014.
But I want to put these statistics up on the screen. Hispanics make up only 10 percent of voting age residents in districts that are currently held by Republican congressmen. Twenty-one percent -- they make up 21 percent of voting age residents in Democratic districts.
So as a political matter, don't Steve King and congressional Republicans face a much bigger political threat for voting for immigration reform and risking a conservative backlash in primaries than they do from voting against it?
ISRAEL: Well, Chris, I think the American people have had it with calculations based on what's good for one party and what's bad for the other party. We need to solve this problem. They did it in the Senate, 68 senators from the right, John McCain, Marco Rubio, to the left, Elizabeth Warren.
If they could put a solution ahead of partisanship, progress ahead of partisanship, we should do it in the House of Representatives as well.
If the House of Representatives refuses to solve this problem and preserves the status quo of a broken system--yes, we will hold them accountable for defying President Bush, President Obama, 68 senators and 87 percent of the American people who want the ideology to be dispensed with and want to solve this problem on a bipartisan way.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, I want to interrupt because I've got two minutes left. I want to ask you about one final question, because there was some other big news this week. And that is that the House passed the Farm Bill. But for the first time since 1973, they passed just the farm subsidy aspect of it and stripped out all funding for food stamps.
Congressman King, the problem, of course, is that the Senate and president are never going to go along with that. Don't House Republicans run the risk of once again being seen as being insensitive to the needs of the poor?
KING: Well, I think that that was characterized by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus on Thursday in the wrong fashion. I opposed splitting them because it takes out of our hands the ability to reform the SNAP program, the food stamp program, and it goes into perpetual motion mandatory spending type of a situation.
So, I think they characterized it wrong. I am opposed to doing this because I want to reform it. They want unlimited food stamps. And I think the truth will emerge here. In the end, I wish we hadn't separated them. I think it was a bad tactic, as it politicized the farm bill for the first time in a long, long time.
WALLACE: Less than a minute left, Congressman Israel. The cost of the food stamp program has doubled since 2008. Let's put it back up on the screen: back in 2008, $40 billion a year being spent on food stamps. Last year, $80 billion being spent on food stamps.
Steve King is talking about cutting $20 billion out of an $800 billion budget for food stamps over the next 10 years, $20 billion out of $800 billion. Is that really so drastic?
ISRAEL: Well, the cost of the price supports and the agricultural subsidies has gone up.
ISRAEL: Look, we have always had a bipartisan understanding that if we can find the resources to support the growing of food; we ought to find the resources to support the eating of food for people who are down on their luck. I've got 100,000 constituents on Long Island who rely on that assistance.
And we always had a bipartisan accord for the first time since the 1970s, we have injected partisanship and ideology, stripped that out. It's not a matter of the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Steve. Virtually, every major farm organization opposed breaking this apart because it's bad policy and it has injected partisanship and ideology again into a dysfunctional, chaotic Congress.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Israel, Congressman King, thank you both. Thanks for joining us.
And we'll stay on top of all these stories.
KING: Thanks, Chris.
ISRAEL: Thanks for having us on.
KING: Thanks, Steve.
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