With House Republicans’ immigration bills likely to go down in flames Thursday afternoon, many vulnerable GOP lawmakers are fearing the political ramifications of their inaction in the face of public outrage over the mass separation of migrant children and families.
But Rep. Pete King (R-NY) is not too concerned.
“Americans care more about Americans,” he told TPM a few hours before the vote.
King, who supports Speaker Paul Ryan’s immigration bill that is currently bleeding support from both the hardline and moderate wings of the GOP caucus, added that he does believe Congress should eventually act on the issue of child separations. But King believes President Trump’s executive order on Wednesday took much of the heat off of Republicans, even though the order allows the administration to continue separating families and does nothing to reunite the thousands already separated.
“I think it will tone down,” he said of the widespread outrage. “This immediate crisis seems to be going away. And if they aren’t arresting families every weekend, then yeah, it’s going away, from the public eye. And if it’s not in the public eye, if you don’t have the dramatic footage, there is always another issue that comes along. There’s a new issue every week.”
If the House’s immigration bills fail on Thursday, as expected, King thinks the lower chamber should wait to see what the Senate can pass. But the Senate GOP caucus appears just as divided as the House. Lawmakers have introduced several competing bills to address the separation of migrant children and parents, all of which would overturn due process, anti-trafficking and human rights protections, and allow for the long-term detention of immigrant families with children. But Senate Republicans have yet to coalesce around a single bill.
While predicting the public’s attention will drift elsewhere before this November’s midterm elections, where Republicans will fight to maintain control of the House, King voiced support for the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting immigrants, as long as the policy is carried out in an orderly fashion.
“The President is absolutely right that we should be detaining more of these people,” he told TPM. “You need some deterrent so they don’t think that anyone who wants to come across the border, as long as they have children, can do so. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be doing it unless we have all the structures in place to accommodate the families right away.”
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