Graham makes immigration reform case in Iowa

8 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cruz says Justice Dept. should investigate Clinton emails.

DES MOINES — A day-long forum on agriculture here, where likely Republican presidential candidates courted Iowa’s farming industry, revealed sharp policy differences among the contenders, from immigration to energy subsidies.

Potential GOP presidential candidates who gathered here Saturday for an agriculture summit largely agreed on issues such as environmental policy, their objections to the labeling of genetically modified food and what they termed the overreach of the federal government.In a 20-minute question-and-answer session with major Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, the former Florida governor demonstrated a broad knowledge of agricultural and rural issues. The nine White House aspirants used their turns on stage Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to blast President Obama and his administration as being heavy-handed and indecisive, arguing that a change in leadership is necessary to stimulate growth for agriculture.

Lindsey Graham came out of nowhere to steal the show at Saturday’s Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines, drawing rollicking laughter and knowing glances from a crowd of farmers and farm families. Ted Cruz says the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email account to conduct official business while she was secretary of state. But the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is of special interest to the Iowa voters who hold the first presidential nominating contest in the nation, was an exception. But while Bush bragged that he planned on cooking “Iowa beef” once he returned home to Coral Gables, he did not serve any political red meat to attendees. Jeb Bush says that immigrants living in the country illegally must have an opportunity to legalize their status, a position at odds with his potential Republican presidential rivals.

Graham’s 20 minutes on stage racked up more laugh lines than the other eight speakers combined – just enough to elevate the audience’s comfort level with his take on immigration – the Kryptonite issue that has made eyes roll at the mention of a Graham presidential run. The Texas Republican and possible 2016 presidential contender said Saturday that the department “absolutely” should launch an investigation to determine whether Clinton violated any laws, adding that it has an “obligation to do so.” Clinton’s extensive use of her own email account and private server has raised questions about whether she adhered to accountability rules. Cruz tells the audience of roughly 1,000 that he has “every bit of faith that businesses can continue to compete, continue to do well without going on bended knee to the government.” A 2007 law increases the volume of ethanol and other renewables blended into transportation fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Saturday’s forum was one of a series of events on Iowa’s political calendar this spring and summer designed to draw the candidates to the state and take positions on its pet issues. The South Carolina Republican is the latest in a string of potential candidates to get a strong PR boost from a breakout performance at a ‘cattle call’ event featuring the GOP’s deep political bench.

No one I know has a plan to round up illegal immigrants and send them back.” Bush has said a larger workforce based on legal immigrant labor is key to his goal of achieving 4 percent economic growth. Iowa has long pushed for federal support for its ethanol industry, and many people have argued that without the high-profile caucuses, those subsidies would have been harder to sustain.

The [question and answer format] appealed to someone relatively wonky [like Bush].” The Republican observer added that he was impressed that Bush “didn’t shy away on issues like immigration reform and agriculture” where many attendees might disagree with him. Scott Walker making a statement for himself at a ‘Freedom Summit’ just a few miles from the agriculture event, wowing cultural conservatives who had never seen him in person before. On Saturday, the fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican-born walked a delicate line in describing his vision for revamping the US immigration system. March 7 belonged to Graham, the open-collar, walking Southern drawl whose detracters call him ‘Goober’ after a character on the Andy Griffith Show – or ‘Senator Graham-nesty,’ in recognition of an immigration platform that hard-liners believe leans too much in the Whtie House’s direction.

Chris Christie said he supports the subsidies and blamed the Obama administration for not being forceful enough in establishing the RFS. “Certainly anybody who’s a competent president would get that done in their administration,” he said. Rick Perry said they opposed it as a form of government intervention in the marketplace. “I just fundamentally have a philosophical disagreement that Washington, D.C., needs to be empowered,” said Perry, who connected with the crowd by recounting growing up on a farm, showing calves at 4-H fairs, and serving as Texas’ agriculture commissioner. The Florida governor went on to tout Canada’s immigration system, which emphasizes economic migrants over those with family ties, as a model for reform in the US. Sparks might have flown, but the audience was too busy laughing along with Graham to expect a fight – even after he insisted that resisting changes in America’s immigration law was ‘hurting the party.’ Graham said the U.S. needs to get out from under the weight of having 11 million illegal immigrants live ‘in the shadows,’ and that Republicans should make their peace with compromise.

Any resistance to ‘securing the borders,’ Graham said, should be a deal-breaker for Republicans – but ‘we need immigration reform that will supply us the labor to keep rural America working.’ Illegal immigrants who want to become permanent residents, he said, should have to speak English and move to the back of the years-long paperwork queues where legal immigrants wait their turns already. Jeb Bush tried to take a middle road on the standard, saying the mandate was necessary in the past but the industry’s success meant it was not necessary in the future. Graham (S.C.) also backs the subsidies, saying every gallon of ethanol produced in Iowa “is a gallon [of oil] less that we have to buy from people who hate our guts.” Differences also emerged between the likely candidates on immigration. Making his first trip to Iowa of the year, Bush defended his support for comprehensive immigration reform, which has drawn stinging criticism from many conservative activists. “If we want to be young and dynamic and growing again, where the debate isn’t about who’s taking from whom rather than having an expanding pie where opportunities exist for all of us, I think we need to fix this broken immigration system,” Bush said. “Immigrants that are here need to have a path to legalized status.” Bush called for bringing undocumented immigrants “out from the shadows” by making them pay fines, learn English, hold jobs with provisional work permits and “earn legalized status over the long haul,” without receiving government assistance. At a fundraiser for first-term congressman David Young on Friday night, Bush touted his conservative record as a two-term governor of Florida; he also released a web video with highlights of his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland late last month.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee asked, “What do we do to stem the tide of people who are rushing over because they’ve heard that there’s a bowl of food just across the border?” If the Republicans disagreed on immigration and energy subsidies, they were unanimous in their criticism of Obama’s diplomatic overtures to Cuba. Gross for three Cuban spies and, in my opinion, we got the way short end of that deal.” At Saturday’s forum, the contenders displayed different styles and motivations. He also said the federal “wind tax credit should be phased out over a period of time”, another sore spot in a state which generates more than a quarter of its energy by wind power. Unlike other so-called cattle calls, likely presidential candidates did not give speeches here and instead each answered questions posed by Rastetter for about 20 minutes.

He noted that thanks to Bush’s experience as governor of a major farm state like Florida, he was able to come across as “fairly knowledgable on agricultural issues”. He added that the United States must “get serious and honest and tough” with China. “We need to start making it so that Americans can prosper, and not just so the Chinese can buy Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags,” he said.

My people follow me everywhere!” Saturday’s forum also was an opportunity for contenders to display knowledge of rural issues and connect with Iowa’s farmers. As a young man on his family farm, Perry recalled, “I watched my wheat go to hell in a hand-basket.” Former New York governor George Pataki also talked about being born and raised on a family farm. Christie joked that, despite grappling with more urban concerns back home, “New Jersey is ‘the Garden State.’ It’s not like I come out here not knowing any of this.”

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