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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Farm Bill, and Immigration Reform


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SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to "Face the Nation. Well, the news from Washington this week was more again about what didn't happen than what did. The Republican-controlled House served notice it wanted no part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate, and in a real stunner, passed the farm bill, giving millions in federal subsidies to farmers but stripped the bill of any funding for food stamps. What do Republicans envision as the next step? Well, we're joined by two Republican House members, Mario Diaz- Balart -- he's in Miami this morning -- and Pennsylvania's Mike Kelly here in the studio. Congressmen, welcome to both of you. Congressman Kelly, let me just cut to the chase on this immigration thing.

KELLY: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: Do you see any way that the House can come up with some kind of a bill that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are in this country illegally?

KELLY: Yeah, we had quite a conversation on Wednesday about that. And I would just say this -- and I know Mario has been working on it for many years. Where I'm from people still worry about border security, and they say, "Listen, we were promised before, in 1986, that we would have border security, everything would be taken care of." At that time, I think there was 3.5 million undocumented immigrants here; now they say 11.5 to 12 million. And we say, you know what, you look back at history, and the old saying is, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. So is there a path to citizenship? I think there is. But I think our plan is about breaking it into separate pieces, having a really thoughtful and a healthy debate about it and then doing something that makes sense for the American people. If we can't do that, then shame on us. But we've got to be able to get to a situation that makes sense for the American people. Now, back home, I don't have people asking me about that every day, until I ask them -- I say, what's the most important thing about immigration? They say, "Oh, my goodness, our borders are too open; we have too many people coming in." So I think the first part we need to deal with is border security.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what would you do with these people? I mean, would you put them all in jail? Would you...

KELLY: No, you can't do that.

SCHIEFFER: ... get buses and haul them back home?

KELLY: No, no. We already know deporting -- that -- that doesn't make sense.

SCHIEFFER: Well, of course not.

KELLY: And I've talked to Mario about it and I've talked to Raul Labrador about it. Listen, there's a way to get there, but I think that way is decided after we have a very thoughtful discussion, everybody has a chance to weigh in. The speaker has been very adamant that everybody will have a voice at the table. Some people don't like that...

SCHIEFFER: But this discussion's been going on for years.

KELLY: Well, it has been going on for years, but it hasn't reached the peak that it's at right now. And I think, because the country is looking for us to do something, I think it's important for the American people to understand, especially after last couple months, you've got to be able to trust the people that you sent to Washington to represent you. But they also have to be thoughtful and they have to do something that makes sense for every American. So you start then to pull back and say, but some of my constituents don't want it at all; some of my constituents don't care about it at all, but at the end of the day...

SCHIEFFER: At the end of the day...

KELLY: It's critically important to the country, from an economic standpoint, that we get these -- get this -- the situation handled. So...

SCHIEFFER: But at the end of the day, nothing ever happens...

KELLY: Well, you know what...

SCHIEFFER: ... Congressman. I think that's what people are -- let's go to Congressman Diaz-Balart.

KELLY: I think we need to change that, though.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that would be a good idea, I think. Congressman Diaz-Balart, do you think that the House can come up with some sort of plan that deals with the 11 million people that are in this country now? Because it seems to me, until you can come up with some realistic plan to deal with them, the rest of it doesn't really matter.

DIAZ-BALART: No, I think we will reach that -- that point. I agree with my colleague, my dear friend, one of the -- by the way, one of the brightest people in the House. What he says is absolutely true. Look, there is distrust of the federal government. Border security was promised and never delivered. So I think we have to do a couple things. Number one is we have to show to the American people that it's going to be real border security, enforceable border security, that also deals with the folks who are here and overstay -- how do we deal with that. Number two is that it helps our economy. Number three, that we have a system, a legal immigration system that works. And number four -- this is key -- that it protects the rule of law. And lastly, we have to deal with the folks that are here. Ignoring the fact that they're here does not make them go away. So we have a total agreement on that. Now, one of the things that was just said, which I think is key to, kind of, like, focus on, in the House, we're going to do it right. We're going to do it methodically. I think, ultimately, we're going to get a better piece of legislation; we're going to get a bill that the American people understand is responsible. And, by the way, we're going to read it. We're not going to have to pass it to find out what's in it. We're going to take our time, get good legislation, and I think, ultimately, we'll get there with a piece of legislation that fixes the broken immigration system, which has to include dealing with the folks that are here.

SCHIEFFER: But what is it that gives you hope that something is going to get done? Because, up until now, there's a lot of talk. The Senate passed a great big bill. But at the end, it appears nothing is going to happen. And -- and I just -- it's hard for me to see how this House is going to come together with anything that will be meaningful in the end. What are -- why are you hopeful that it will?

DIAZ-BALART: I understand why you -- that's very good question. I mean, the reality is that, when the Democrats controlled, they didn't want to do it. When the Republicans controlled in the past, we didn't want to do it, either. I think what's changed now is that there's a realization, first of all by the American people, that we have to fix this broken immigration system that is affecting us. It's affecting our economy, our national security, et cetera, number one. And, number two, the congressional leadership -- look, the Republican leadership understands that we have to pass responsible legislation that secures the border, that protects the rule of law, and we're going to have to deal with the folks that are here. So unlike when the Democrats controlled and unlike in previous years when the Republicans controlled, I think there's the realization, particularly by the Republican leadership, that we have to get it done. But more importantly, we have to get it done right to protect the economy, to protect the rule of law, dealing with the folks that are here while not violating the rights of the folks that have done things legally, and obviously in a way that's thoughtful, responsible and very clearly enforceable.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask, Congressman Kelly -- and we're very short on time this morning because of all the news. You pass a farm bill in the House that gives billions of dollars, much of it to large corporations that own farms. It's almost like welfare for the wealthy. But you don't include a dollar for hungry people, for food stamps. What kind of a message is that?

KELLY: Well, I think the message was -- so we try to put the bigger piece through, bigger for our bill. We couldn't get enough agreement on either side. So Mr. (inaudible) said, why don't we break it in two pieces? Let's address the ag piece first and then we'll do the SNAP program, the nutritional piece second. It made sense to me because we couldn't get agreement on how we should do it. Now, the frustrating for me -- listen, I'm not -- I'm not a politician; I'm an automobile dealer. And my whole life has been based on sitting down across the table from somebody who actually wanted to get something done and then compromising to...

SCHIEFFER: Do you want to pass money for food stamps?

KELLY: Well, listen, we already have money for food stamps. And what bothers me, Bob, is that one in six Americans, right now, are on this -- this program. Now, either the economy is not growing at the rate it should or this program is so badly flawed that we're letting too many people in. The sustainability of this is what concerns me. You can't keep promising things to people that, in the future, you know you can't sustain. I think it's unfair and I think it's un-American to do that.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think there will be money for food stamps passed by this...

KELLY: Oh, absolutely. I have never talked to one person that says we don't want to take care of the most vulnerable; we don't want to take care of those people who need it the most. But I have talked to people that said the system's broken. And when we look at what's going on, we're wasting -- wasting billions of dollars on a program that doesn't seem to be lifting people out of poverty but keeping them in a state of poverty. That's not right. That's not American. That's not the way we worked in the past. And that's not what our future should hope for. It should be one of blue skies and strong winds at our back and a nation that has everything that God could possibly provide for us here. We have tillable soil and potable water. As far as providing food for people, my goodness, we shouldn't be vulnerable in this country any place.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we'll stop there. We're going to turn to the other side of Capitol Hill and talk to the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, who joins us this morning from Springfield, Illinois. What's your take, Senator Durbin? You all passed the big immigration bill. You saw what the House did this week. You also saw this farm bill that was passed. What, as a Democrat, do you see now?


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