By Vianna Davila
Though Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over how to avoid the looming sequester deadline, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and freshman Congressman Joaquín Castro believe enough bipartisan support may exist to push through comprehensive immigration reform.
Speaking to the San Antonio Express-News editorial board Saturday, Pelosi and Castro also emphasized reform must include a path to citizenship.
“I actually think there are existing bipartisan coalitions on comprehensive immigration reform, on gun reform, and even many of these fiscal issues,” said Castro-D-San Antonio.
The newly elected representative was in San Antonio with the former House speaker for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser. “The question is will the (House) speaker (John Boehner) and his committee chairmen allow these things to move?”
On March 1, $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts are likely to go into effect, unless Republicans and Democrats can reach a deal.
Virginia and California are expected to be the two states hardest hit by the cuts, but Texas is not far behind, Pelosi said.
Castro discussed a recent visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to discuss the possible furloughs of civilian workers.
That could include personnel hired to “be more attuned to sexual harassment and sexual assault,” he said. More than two dozen Lackland training instructors have been investigated for sexual misconduct with trainees in recent months.
“People are getting very nervous,” Castro said of possible sequester cuts. “These are folks that are not wealthy individuals, many of whom pay bills month by month.”
On gun control, if an assault weapons ban doesn't pass, Pelosi said there's bipartisan support for universal background checks.
The pair struck an even more optimistic tone on immigration reform, an issue that's come increasingly into focus since last summer, when the president issued a policy change that gives deferred action to some young immigrants brought to this country illegally as children.
Republicans have increasingly warmed to the issue, particularly after Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the November election.
“You've clearly got different parts of the Republican caucus that are getting on board with a path to citizenship,” Castro said.
However, Pelosi would not support a bill that requires immigrants to return to their country of origins to apply for temporary legal status, calling it a deterrent.
“I think right now is the moment — the leverage point is here,” Pelosi said. “Right now, let's just grow up and do the job.”
A congresswoman since 1987, Pelosi on Saturday recalled memories of Castro's predecessors in the 20th Congressional District, calling storied San Antonio politician Henry B. Gonzalez “the greatest person I ever served with.” His son and successor in the seat, Charlie Gonzalez, “was just remarkable.” She also suggested that mantle would now pass to Castro, elected after the younger Gonzalez decided not to seek another term.
“I'll be thanking some folks today for sending Joaquín Castro in a great tradition,” Pelosi said, “but making his own mark already in the Congress.”