Las Vegas CBS KXNT- For someone who will spend the next year defending a politically precarious district, Republican Congressman Joe Heck does not mince words.
“Let’s just dive right into it,” he said, taking the podium recently as the invited speaker at the Hispanics for Politics breakfast.
Heck spent the next hour explaining his position on immigration reform, the differing Senate and House approaches to the bill, and Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to bring it to a floor vote unless a majority of Republicans are on board.
About 3,000 phone calls and emails on the subject are pouring into his office each week, Heck said, and passion is running high. He lamented that some have taken to social media to distort his position, and suggested that using the issue as fodder for the 2014 election could derail reform.
“There are a lot of people that want to make this about politics,” he said. “Those who want to make it about politics for some future reason really are going to jeopardize the entire process.”
The second-term congressman asked who in the room has read the bill, which weighs in at 1,198 pages. Two hands went up.
“This bill is not a bad start to immigration reform,” Heck said, noting that after reading all of it, he believes the issues in it are the ones that need to be addressed — minus a “sweetener” provision that’s irrelevant to immigration reform and was added to get additional support in the Senate.
Heck has been asked repeatedly whether he would vote for the Senate bill, he said. Before outlining flaws he’d like to correct, he emphasized that the question is moot because under Boehner’s leadership there won’t be a vote.
Among changes Heck will promote in the House are removal of a provision allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive border security measures if they aren’t complete in 10 years; eliminating a fee to employers who participate in youth employment program; and altering pathway-to-citizenship requirements that don’t give credit for vocational education.
Heck advocates splitting up the reform into smaller bills that address separate problems.
There was applause when Heck said he is committed to passing reform this year.