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One of the most prominent amnesty opponents in the House Republican Conference says he supported the original border bill, backs the new one as well and believes the legislation will give the American people a clear choice between the parties on immigration policy heading into the November elections.
Friday’s vote was scheduled after GOP leaders failed to muster enough votes to pass the original bill. Members were on their way home for summer recess when they were called back to work again on the legislation. Following a meeting of Republican members Friday morning, passage of a revised bill was largely expected by the end of the day.
Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., made headlines last year by suggesting House Speaker John Boehner should lose his leadership position if he ever brought an immigration bill to a vote without having a majority of House GOP members ready to support it.
The congressman said he supported the original legislation. By Friday afternoon, Rohrabacher was waiting to see the final language of the revised bill.
“It’s the same bill as what we had before, and the other bill was a step forward. Many of us have been fighting the good fight against the nonsense we have in terms of immigration policy. I was going to vote for it,” Rohrabacher said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif.:
For Rohrabacher, the plan included two of his top priorities. The first is stronger border security.
"We are going to make sure that the National Guard can play a legal role at the border when it's necessary to call upon them. When they do, the federal government will take that expense because protecting the border is a federal responsibility," said Rohrabacher, who is also pleased the bill rolls back recent laws mandating that every young person coming across the border be processed.
"It was eliminating a loophole in the law that had been placed there by legislation a long time ago that was aimed at human trafficking but set up a loophole that was actually giving due process rights to people who just ended up at our doorstep. That's why we were ending up with such a flooding, a swarming of young people at our border," Rohrabacher said.
He said the failure to pass the bill on Thursday was the result of some confusion other conservative members had over specific language in the bill.
"There was some wording of the bill that some of our more conservative members felt was not as effective as we could have had it and might lead to some confusion," he said. "They insisted on getting together last night and they worked out the proper wording. That's what we are going to vote on today, and I have no doubt that it will pass."
Rohrabacher said he still isn't sure what the wording problems were.
"That was the biggest problem that I had with these people," he said. "When I asked for specifics, they really couldn't give me things. When they tried to, it didn't make sense to me."
Other conservative criticisms of the bill include the failure to address President Obama's unilateral 2012 decision to offer legal status to young people in the country illegally, providing their parents brought them here against their wills while they were minors.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, also demanded that Central Americans entering the country illegally be treated the same as Mexicans committing the same offense. King said that provision was fixed in the updated bill.
While fellow anti-amnesty stalwarts such as Rep.King and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, found the original language unacceptable, Rohrabacher said he respectfully disagrees with their tactics from Thursday.
"I don't vote against a bill because of what's not in it," he said. "I think that that's irrational to do that. That way you would vote against every bill because there's something you can add into every bill that's going to be more positive. You take a look and you say, 'Is that bill a step forward? Had they killed that bill for that particular reasoning, it would have been a great disservice to our country because then the positive things wouldn't get in."
Thursday was largely a public relations nightmare for the GOP, with leaders briefly giving up on hopes of passing a bill they previously said was vital an planning to take it up again in September. However, Rohrabacher said this debate and the current border crisis are both serving to unify the House Republicans on the issue of immigration reform.
"The circumstances and historic events have been happening that have crystallized in people's minds what this issue of illegal immigration really is. I have, time and again, said this is not just the president. The president hasn't brought on this border crisis. It's the president as well as the Republican leadership. We're going down the wrong path," said Rohrabacher, noting that he repeatedly told his GOP colleagues embracing concepts like legalizing young illegal immigrants would lead to a flood of kids at the southern border.
"Our leadership has changed. I think they've come to a more realistic understanding of where the Republican constituency is," he said. "I think that events have caught up with the decision makers in Washington. Now, at least the decision makers in the Republican Party are together and they're going in the right direction," he said.
Passage of the bill, he said, puts Democrats in a very awkward position.
He said, "The Democrats are going to suffer because of this because there are a lot of Democrats who are saying, 'Hey, What's the president's answer? He's going to give away work permits to millions of people who have come here illegally? What is that going to do to the working people of our country who are unemployed now?'"
Senate Democratic leaders vowed to reject the original House bill and left Washington before the House voted on Friday. President Obama reiterated on Friday that he would veto either of the House bills if they somehow made it through the Senate.
So what can the GOP gain by staying in town to pass a bill that will never become law?
"The best thing we need to do as Republicans is say, 'This is what we've passed. This is what our policies would be. Compare it to the Democrats, and then you vote. American voters vote and decide what direction our country goes.' In that way, this bill has served it's purpose well," he said.