By Ken StonePresident Trump’s border wall vow fell flat with San Diego’s three congressional Democrats appearing at a downtown gabfest Friday. No surprise.
But the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is no fan either.
A flash survey at the chamber’s annual congressional luncheon showed only 5 percent of attendees calling funding for a border wall “most critical” in the immigration debate.
Their top concern? “Finding a permanent solution for Dreamers” was backed by 77 percent of chamber lunchers, referring to DACA recipients.
(“Investing in border technology” got 13 percent, and “reducing legal immigration” had 5 percent.)
— San Diego Chamber (@SDChamber) June 29, 2018
With only Republican Duncan Hunter missing from the stage of the Omni Hotel ballroom (“We got word 20 minutes before 11 that he had a scheduling conflict,” said a chamber spokeswoman), the remaining four House members shared their views in a laugh-filled program.
Democrats Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas and retiring Republican Darrell Issa fielded questions from the 385-member audience relayed by moderator Monique Rodriguez, Qualcomm’s senior director of governmental affairs.
Issa held the floor the longest — thanks to his lame-duck status in the 49th district. But he agreed with his “opposite party” colleagues on the need for compromise and teamwork.
Bipartisan bills not getting a vote “irritates all of us,” Issa said, confessing that he and GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy “aren’t getting along very well” these days.
“He won’t bring [to] a vote [a bill] that all of us have signed onto, plus Duncan, and it passed out of committee with every single member of Judiciary voting for it because it brings real reform to high-tech H-1B (visa program),” Issa said.
He called that bill — H.R. 170 — a small effort but an important one.
“Why we don’t bring up the simple one befuddles me,” he said.
Davis of the 53rd district said her No. 1 immigration aim was “a solution for DACA, obviously.” But she said a 24-year await for citizenship, as suggested by one bill, was too long.
Issa put that duration in a different context.
With at least 12 million undocumented people in America, he said, it would “take 12 or 14 or 15 years” just to give those currently living here a path to citizenship while halting all new immigration during that time — a little over a million a year.
DACA assimilation, he said, would require a “bubble” in immigration numbers.
Issa rapped “this endless family reunification,” also called chain migration by other Republicans.
“It becomes a question of: Is that really the way you should select from 6 1/2 billion people who live outside the U.S.?” he asked.
Issa called filling the 1 1/2 million to 2 million annual legal immigrant slots “allocation of a very scarce resource.”
He said tens of millions of people apply to enter the United States via the lottery alone, so “we need to come up with a way to allocate the resources in our best interests in some sort of a fair way.”
“I’m not giving up till the last day of this Congress,” he said of immigration reform efforts. “We CAN get to a solution.”
Peters of the 52nd district called the border wall “an obscene waste of money.”
“From a security perspective, I think it’s 1 1/2 aircraft carriers,” he said, drawing applause. “As my mother said…. Why don’t you talk about schools? There’s a lot you can do with $20 billion.”
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If Democrats win back the House in November, Peters said, passing immigration reform would be one of his goals.
“We’re just letting the country down if we don’t,” he said. “If we had voted on the 2013 Senate bill, it would have passed, and we wouldn’t have this question here today.”
And Vargas of the border-hugging 51st district faulted his own party.
“We didn’t pass it when we were in charge (in 2009 and 2010),” he said. “We should have, and it’s really unfortunate for San Diego, certainly Imperial County. … I can tell you this: The farmers down there are begging for labor.”
An earlier question saw the quartet laboring: If Democrats take the House, will there be a move to impeach President Trump?
Vargas said he didn’t think the president would get impeached — “unless we find stuff really, really bad that comes out.”
He said American voters will render their verdict in the 2020 election.
“If Democrats take the House, I hope we can focus on those things that we can actually make happen,” Vargas said. “Otherwise, it’s a waste of people’s time.”
Peters noted the impeachments of President Nixon (“bipartisan, based on the evidence”) and Clinton (“baldly political. It seems quaint what he lied about, given what we’ve got going on now.”)
But he said a Trump impeachment shouldn’t really be “part of the political calculus.”
Davis said impeachment would have to be bipartisan for it to move forward in “any kind of meaningful way.” She opposed either party “weaponizing” the issue.
And Issa pointed to the “statistical reality” that Congress has impeached (and the Senate removed from office after trial) only a handful of people — all federal judges.
“It’s not a tool that’s likely to be used,” he said. “It’s not a good tool. If you don’t like the accomplishments of this administration, or even if you don’t like the style of this president, there will be an election.”
Moderator Rodriguez wrapped up the 50-minute chat — which also saw comments on North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and trade issues — by asking Issa for parting advice and whether he had any regrets.
He began by joking “if I could sing ‘Regrets.'”
Issa turned serious: “When it comes to legislation, you do the Churchill bit: Never give up, never, never, never give up. … The important thing is to keep reintroducing it, bringing it up, because eventually all good ideas have their day.”
He recalled another maxim: You’ll be surprised how many people of the opposing party you find the ability to work with on common things you agree on, “even if you can’t get them done.”
He cited Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Most people remember the March 2014 moment when Issa, as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, turned off Cummings’ microphone (for which he later apologized).
But Issa said “people forget” that he and Cummings were among the top three members of Congress for the number of bills they shared in sponsoring.
“Everyone saw us on TV as though we were World War III,” he said. “[But] Elijah Cummings is one of the good thoughtful guys that behind the scenes is happy to do legislation. I wish I had more of those people I spent more time with.”
Added Issa: “The only enemies you make are in your own party. And so if I’ve had regrets, it’s that I haven’t been careful enough not to make enemies in my own party at times.”
At the chamber luncheon, he also feasted with Vargas on their friendship.
“Juan is willing to travel with me and eat things that he never thought he would eat in places he never wanted to go,” Issa said. “When you need to go places to see things, you take Juan. It’s kind of a bonding opportunity.”
Earlier, Vargas may have shocked some Democrats — and Diane Harkey, the GOP candidate for Issa’s seat (who attended the luncheon).
After noting Issa’s experience on U.S.-Mexico issues and his part in paving the way for border-crossing funding, Vargas said:
“I think the biggest loss to [the San Diego delegation] will be Darrell. On the big issues, he always comes through. … I think it’s going to be a huge loss, no matter who wins. I think our biggest loss is in losing Darrell this year.”
“I’ll take that,” Issa said.
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