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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Labrador blasts Obama on budget; softens on immigration

Kip Hill Spokesman-Review correspondent
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador blasted President Barack Obama on Wednesday for lack of leadership in the sequestration spat, while hinting his willingness to accept some Democratic positions in potential immigration reform legislation. Labrador, R-Idaho, accused Obama and the media of “scare tactics” in emphasizing the impacts of automatic spending cuts totaling $85 billion set to kick in Friday. “We haven’t had a lot of calls,” said Labrador, who spoke with reporters Wednesday and is considered an emerging leader among tea party conservatives. “I’ve had a few people call me concerned about what it’s going to do in the meat industry … and all those things.” Referring to reports released by the White House over the weekend, laying out the potential impact of the sequester on a state-by-state basis, Labrador noted that many of the spending cuts wouldn’t take effect immediately. Teacher layoffs wouldn’t occur for several months, and Labrador said that would give schools the flexibility to cut bloated spending through attrition and other methods. “For the president to go to the nation, and say that we’re going to lose teachers and we’re going to lose cops … it’s pretty shameful, actually, on the part of the president,” Labrador said. Senate Democrats have scheduled a floor vote for their sequester-averting proposal, co-sponsored by Washington’s U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, which would combine tax hikes with military and farm subsidy spending cuts and a delay of sequestration-level cuts to next year. Labrador said he doubted the ability of Senate leadership to push the plan through, noting Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed two budget resolutions that would stave off the sequester, both of which haven’t gained traction in the Senate due to their cuts to entitlement programs. A handful of Republican congressmen joined Labrador at a “Conversations with Conservatives” roundtable lunch with journalists on Capitol Hill. While the members agreed for the most part on government spending and tax reform, Labrador signaled some openness to immigration reform proposals brought forward by Democrats. But, he said, border security would need to be shored up before any extensions of benefits to illegal immigrants would be offered. A new pathway to citizenship, however, is “completely off the table,” Labrador said. “If anyone wants to apply for citizenship, they must do that in the same way as any other immigrant,” Labrador said. The Idaho Republican has gained some national prominence, as a former immigration lawyer and young conservative member of the House, in the national discussion on reform. Labrador said Republicans should come to terms with Obama’s executive orders, including granting amnesty to certain illegal immigrants, and try to negotiate for stricter enforcement in the current round of discussions. Though sometimes heated, the lunchtime conversation was mostly cordial throughout, with catered sandwiches from in-the-news fast food chain Chick-Fil-A and some ribbing of Labrador’s rising profile. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., jokingly referred to Labrador as “governor” as the congressman took his seat, which drew a few head shakes and a smile. Labrador has been rumored to be eyeing the governor’s seat in Idaho. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mass., drew another laugh from Labrador when he chimed in on immigration reform. “I agree with Congressman Labrador, and I voted for him for Speaker of the House,” Amash said, to laughter from the panel. Amash was the only Republican representative who voted for Labrador over current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Kip Hill, a student in the University of Missouri Washington, D.C., Reporting Program, is a correspondent for The Spokesman-Review.