Grimes declines to take a stance on Obama's request for emergency immigration funds

syoungman@herald-leader.comJuly 10, 2014 

— Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes declined Thursday to say how she would vote on President Barack Obama's request for $3.7 billion to address the immigration crisis on the nation's southern border.

When asked four times if she would vote for the supplemental funding that Obama requested Tuesday from Congress, Grimes focused her answers on criticizing her opponent, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Grimes, who is Kentucky's secretary of state, said she was for securing the border and an "earned pathway to citizenship." But in her answers to questions about Obama's supplemental request, she repeatedly referenced McConnell's opposition to an immigration reform bill the Senate approved last year.

With more than 50,000 children crossing the border into the United States in the last eight months, Obama asked Congress this week for the emergency funding to secure the border and care for the flood of unaccompanied Central American children.

Talking to reporters after delivering a speech to the summer convention of Kentucky's county officials, Grimes first responded to a question about her position on the funding request by saying it was "horrible" that McConnell voted against the immigration reform bill in June 2013. Fourteen Republican senators voted in favor of the bill.

"His entire caucus" had "to go around him to get a bill out of the Senate," Grimes said.

Pressed on whether she would vote for the $3.7 billion supplemental, Grimes repeated her oft-used line that she is "going to assess everything when I'm in the United States Senate in the light of 'is it good for Kentucky?'"

When asked whether the proposed funding was good for Kentucky, Grimes responded: "In terms of immigration reform, I think ... earned pathway to citizenship and a secure border is much needed, not just for Kentucky but for the entire nation."

Grimes was asked again, specifically, about the $3.7 billion Obama requested.

"Again, the bill that came out of the Senate, I strongly supported and I will continue to monitor the legislation that is before Congress and hope that Mitch McConnell won't stand in the way of reform, especially much-needed reform and earned pathway to citizenship helping our farmers here in Kentucky," Grimes said.

McConnell has criticized the president's funding request, accusing Obama's "failed policies" of causing the humanitarian crisis and asking for a "blank check" from Congress to address it.

In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday morning, McConnell said "we're taking a hard look at the proposal the president sent over, but we want to make sure we actually get the right tools to help fix the problem."

"And that's not what we've seen so far from the president," McConnell said. "What he appears to be asking for is a blank check — one that would allow him to sustain his current failed policy."

On Wednesday, Obama urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to push Washington Republicans to move on his request, saying "about half of the resources would go to border security, enforcement and expedited removal of people who don't qualify for a humanitarian claim. About half would go to make sure we're treating children humanely. We'd also make investments to further tackle the root problems in Central America."

"They've said they want to see a solution," Obama said of Republicans. "The supplemental offers them the capacity to vote immediately to get it done."

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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