Immigration Would Clear House if Vote Allowed, Reid Tells Univision

Photograph by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada during a press conference late Wednesday night.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, fresh from negotiating the resolution of a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government, suggests that’s not happening again soon — but if it does, he says, the House’s Republicans can bid farewell to the speaker’s office.

Asked about the prospects for an immigration overhaul, Reid, whose chamber passed a comprehensive plan earlier this year, reminds everyone that “this is a two-year Congress.” Like the budget deal that passed the House with more Democratic votes than Republican, he says, the immigration bill would pass there too if it were allowed to go to the floor.

In an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos for the program, Al Punto, airing Sunday, the Nevada Democrat was asked: “Of course, the government is open. The debt ceiling has been raised. Obamacare was not dismantled. What, so what was this all about?”

“Well, this was a crisis that was manufactured,” Reid said. “It’s just a shame that people suffered. You know, we focus on the government shutdown, and how hard it was on big business. Think what it has done to the average American. You know, you take a program that we believe in very much like Head Start or the WIC program, almost 40 percent of the people in those programs are Hispanic. And they have been devastated. Some programs had to stop doing what they were doing. The average American has been hurt by this shutdown. And there is no reason. It was a waste of everyone’s time, especially the American people’s time.”

What made the House’s Republicans “blink at the end?” — the House voted 285-144, with more than a third of the Republicans supporting an agreement negotiated by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“I would like to say it was the great oratory of Democrats,” Reid said. “But what made them blink was the American people. There was so much pushback against this silly, stupid thing they were trying to do. I mean to think about that. The House of Representatives voted 45 times to repeal Obamacare. As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is someone who does something over and over and over again, and think they’re going to get a different result. It’s just such a waste of resources.”

Why are politics prevailing over the interests of the country?

“I don’t blame the American people for being upset,” Reid said. “What we have here in America today is a crisis created for no reason, other than to satisfy the shrill right-wing Tea Party. The Republicans have been taken over by the Tea Party, at least in the House of Representatives. And I would hope that this crisis as some Republican members of Congress have said, you can look at Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. I’m paraphrasing but they said this was a terrible waste of resources. All it did is hurt Republicans. And I hope because of this, this brinkmanship that they tried to take, that wasn’t tried, they took this right to the edge. I hope they’ve learned a lesson. The American people will not put up with that. And if this happens again, I don’t think it will, but if it does, I think the House of Representatives will go Democratic.”

It’s likely to happen again in February, right?

“No I don’t think it will,” Reid said. “I believe the polls that show 18 Republicans, congregational districts, if the vote were today they would lose. So they, I hope they’ve learned their lesson. If they haven’t, they really aren’t thinking too well.”

What’s Reid’s take on Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who pressed colleagues to insist upon defunding Obamacare?

“In an effort to help him run for president, he has done some stuff that’s really damaging to our country,” he said. “And who has he hurt? He’s been attempting to raise money. And who has he hurt? He has hurt average Americans. The government being shutdown for 14 or 15 days, that has been very hurtful to people. Not only the people that work for government, but the people who work around government. The people who work for government, six million people weren’t getting paid. They couldn’t buy clothes. They couldn’t buy gasoline. They couldn’t go to movies. What he has done to our country will go down in the history books as one of the most negative approaches to trying to change America that we’ve ever seen. What he did was absolutely wrong.”

The president has said immigration should be overhauled this year. The Senate has passed a bill. Could House Speaker John Boehner pass it?

“I think that the House of Representatives has been seen by the American public as being unfair,” Reid said. “And why do I say that? We have 435 members of the House of Representatives. I’ve served there. When an issue comes up, they should all be able to vote on it. Democrats and Republicans, the speakers would only let Republicans vote. Now on this most important measure he let everybody vote. And we had every Democrat voted, 85 Republicans voted for this. I would hope he would get away from having only Republicans. His history was, `What I’ll do is, I’m not going to pass anything unless it’s the majority of the majority.’ I hope this breaks that. I think an issue that comes up like immigration. If immigration were brought to the floor tomorrow it would pass overwhelming in the House of Representatives, overwhelmingly. The American people want it, it would reduce the debt by a trillion dollars. It’s long overdue.”

So will that happen this year?

“I think we should do everything we can. Now remember I’m going to do everything I can to get it done this year. But remember this is a two-ear Congress, that’s how they always are. I think we need to get this done. We can’t lose sight of why we’re doing this. It’s not only to, that we need a pathway to citizenship. And I will never agree to anything that doesn’t have a pathway to citizenship. But it’s also how do we get the country’s finances under control? Pass immigration reform, that’s a trillion dollars that reduces the debt.”

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