U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart told the Utah Legislature on Tuesday that passing immigration reform is not a top priority in his mind and he believes Congress’ mistrust of President Barack Obama makes it unlikely any changes will pass this year.
The freshman congressman told members of the Utah House that polling shows immigration is a low priority for the public, and he agrees with that assessment, believing Congress should focus on balancing the budget and reducing the debt.
Stewart said some in Congress, including himself, are uncomfortable with giving citizenship to people who entered the country illegally and with the bad blood between Congress and the president.
"There has been so much distrust between the executive and Congress now that many of us don’t believe any longer the president will enforce the laws we give him," Stewart said.
Those factors combine to make it very unlikely that Congress will get anything done to reform the U.S. immigration system, one of the president’s priorities in his recent State of the Union address.
Stewart said that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is bad legislation and Republican efforts to draw attention to the many problems of the law is what ultimately led to last year’s government shutdown.
"This law is fundamentally flawed and that’s why it’s going to be the focal point of the midterm elections," Stewart said. "This law is hurting the American people and American families."
Stewart told senators that he wished Congress was able to work more like the Utah Legislature and that he believes most of the challenges facing the nation "are best addressed by the states."
As an example, he said the issue of air quality is "best addressed at the state and not the federal level. We are the ones who breathe the air, and the assumption should be that we are the one who can make the best decisions" affecting that.
However, Gov. Gary Herbert, in his push for better air quality, is relying heavily on federal requirements for cleaner-burning fuel and cleaner-running vehicles.
Stewart explained his vote last year against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as one of federalism, as well.
"I believe this is another example of where I felt it was best dealt with at the state level. I didn’t feel there was a necessity for federal involvement in that," Stewart said, calling it "one more encroachment of federal power in what I feel was best reserved for the state."
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