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Norquist ready for immigration reform

By DAVID TONYAN, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI   |   Nov. 28, 2012 at 4:32 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Another major conservative voiced support for U.S. immigration reform this week but this one has been calling for it for a while, albeit not as loudly as he has for tax cuts.

"Immigration is our competitive advantage against the rest of the world as an economic power," said Grover Norquist, the influential U.S. lobbyist and tax-reform activist.

Norquist, who spoke at Politico's Playbook Breakfast Wednesday morning, said he's encouraging the Republican Party to follow through on recent calls for immigration reform in the wake of election losses.

The United States needs to understand that smarter immigration policy can separate the nation from Japan and China, said Norquist, the president of American's for Tax Reform.

"He's not a Johnny-come-lately to the issue," said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the liberal think tank. "He's always taken the position that what unifies his position of taxation and immigration is economic growth ... Unlike a fair number of other Republicans who are suffering a post-combat conversion."

On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, of Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., introduced a bill that grants legal residency to young people taken illegally into the United States if they seek higher education or enlist in the military.

The senators said they have been working on the bill for the last year and its release has nothing to do with the presidential election, in which Republican challenger Mitt Romney lost the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Norquist also discussed the Tax Payer Protection Pledge and criticized the notion that he was a kingmaker within the Republican Party. The pledge is mailed to candidates and asks them to sign that they will not raise taxes. More than 90 percent of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have signed it.

Norquist said the pledge isn't to him but to constituents, who, he argues, want taxes cut.

"I didn't have to send anybody a press release in 1990 that (President George H.W.) Bush raised taxes," Norquist said. "They noticed."

Norquist also discussed the U.S. "fiscal cliff," a combination of automatic spending cuts and increases in tax rates that will happen unless Congress acts before Jan. 3.

He said Obama should be in the Capitol negotiating, and that Republicans could stay in Washington while taking their plan to the people through CSPAN and the Internet.

"I think we can change the field so Republicans don't get blamed and the president gets blamed," Norquist said about the possibility of sequestration.

Another field Norquist looks to change is the Republican presidential primary system, which he says produced a bad candidate this cycle in Romney. He was more impressed with the current leader of Texas.

"Rick Perry has a tremendous track record of success," Norquist said.

The anti-tax activist wants candidates to prove they're "team players" by raising $100,000 for the Republican Party before they can be considered.

Still, the ardent conservative sees a bright future for Republicans.

"You look two years ahead. There's every reason to believe you'll take the Senate," Norquist said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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