On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “NOW w/Alex Wagner,” Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador went head-to-head with the show’s entire left-leaning panel over the issue of immigration, and on if Republicans in the U.S. House are being obstructionists with regards to passage of a bill that came out of the U.S. Senate.
Labrador denied that was the case and argued the House of Representatives was working to perfect its own bill through the committee process. But later in the segment, Labrador was accused by former Obama aide Bill Burton of employing talking points, to which Labrador took offense.
“I don’t speak on talking points so that’s totally offensive,” Labrador said. “If you want to have a debate on the discussion, we can do that. I actually have my own mind. I was an immigration lawyer for 15 years. I think I know more than you do about immigration and on immigration reform. So let’s not try to insult people when trying to have an honest discussion about what’s happening in America. I think there was.”
Labrador reminded the “NOW” panel that Obama had actually been an obstructionist to immigration reform back when he was a member of the Senate.
“President Obama when he was a senator voted for amendments that killed the immigration reform effort in the Senate,” he said. “Let’s talk about the reality of immigration reform. Your party hasn’t wanted to do it. Rahm Emanuel told the president that if they did immigration reform Democrats would lose electorally. So, if you want to start casting aspersions, your party has as much blame as my party has for not getting this issue solved.”
Host Alex Wagner also challenged Labrador as a Republican on the grounds of his ethnicity and childhood, asking him if he thought his party had done enough to reach out to certain groups.
“Congressman, I want to ask you specifically about that because you’re a person of color,” Wagner said. “Your mother was a single mother. You came to this country from Puerto Rico. Are you satisfied that the outreach and the messaging your party has done to single women, to working women, to single mothers, to people of color, to people looking to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves?”
“You know, I think we can do a much better job and I actually agree with that statement,” Labrador replied. “But the rest of the statement I think is a little bit off. I’ll give you just one example. Steve Pearce is a congressman from New Mexico. There was a New York Times article written about him, how he is a very conservative — just as conservative as I am on many issues. He represents a district that is mostly Hispanic. And what he does is he reaches out to the Hispanic community — he doesn’t pander to the Hispanic community, but he makes sure that he goes to all the meetings, he goes to all their causes, he does everything they do. And what he gets is the respect of the Hispanic community. I think we can be much better, and I think Steve Pearce has to be an example for every Republican, but pandering to the Hispanic community like the New Republic and MSNBC wants us to do, that is actually a recipe for disaster.”
That statement from Labrador led to a back-and-forth exchange between him and Wagner as to whether or not pandering to ethnic minorities is occurring, and if that’s an appropriate course of action.
WAGNER: I would beg to differ on that last point.
LABRADOR: That’s a recipe for disaster because what’s going to happen, if you’re pandering, it’s going to be the side that panders the most that is going to get the results. We’re never going to out-pander the Democratic Party.
WAGNER: You may want to qualify it or characterize it as pandering but that’s not what we do here.
LABRADOR: That’s exactly what we want. That’s what you’re doing. You’re saying that the only way the Republican Party can win is by accepting an immigration reform bill that is not fully completed. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. We do the right policy and the politics will follow. But I do agree that we have to as a party go out to the communities and talk to them, explain to them why our policies are different than their policies. Ask them why they think that under the Obama administration there are more Hispanic people that are poor, there’s more African-Americans poor, there’s more people losing their job, their businesses.