/ Modified may 6, 2024 3:42 p.m.

Congressman Ciscomani on the border, 1864 abortion ban, effort to oust House speaker

Congressman Juan Ciscomani spoke with AZPM senior reporter Danyelle Khmara on some of the most salient topics of the day

Ciscomani Congress AP Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., nominates Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
AP Photo, Alex Brandon

Danyelle Khmara: Originally when I had reached out to you guys, I wanted to ask you about the bipartisan visit to the Arizona, U.S.-Mexico border last week. I read that the aim of that trip was to find common ground and potential solutions. So my first question to you is, did you find any?

Rep. Juan Ciscomani: Well, one of the key things that came out of that is that the notion that when you learn something together. You can come up with solutions that are similar. You can process things in a similar way, given that you're being given the same information.

It was important to bring members from out of California, Illinois, New York, of course, Greg and I from Arizona. So these were members that don't live the border life every single day, the way that we do. So one thing that was important to do here, as we look for solutions, was to know and for them to know that the border is multifaceted.

(The House members that were a part of the delegation were: Ciscomani (R-Tucson), Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix) Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Eric Sorensen (D-IL), Nick LaLota (R-NY) and Young Kim (R-CA).)

So whenever you thought border issues, it can be you're talking security, which is a really bad actors trying to do bad things. It could be trade and commerce, which flows back and forth, and for Arizona, Mexico is the number one trading partner. Or it could be actual immigration law that we're talking about on the border, coming to this country to study or work or become a green card holder or an American citizen the way my family did. So I would say I have a personal journey with that.

So it was kind of just a full picture of the border in the two days that we were here, not just one of the aspects of it because it's important to understand the full spectrum of it, to know where each of these sections falls in place. So I think they walked away with that understanding of what the border presents. And I actually ran into them back in Washington this week. And we challenged a group that helped us put together this trip, that bipartisan coalition group in Washington, to get us together again, to actually find some follow up on this, to follow up with some policy recommendations or something that we could do.

I'm always looking for partners, to be able to do this, whether they're Republicans or Democrats on this issue, especially in divided government, we're going to need to work with both sides on it. And it was important to stress the point that security is the number one issue, and I think they're walking away with that understanding.

Khmara: So just as somebody who is following this closely from the outside, this seems quite reminiscent of when Sinema was down here with a bipartisan group, and the proposal that they put together, as you know, failed. So what could you guys come up with that would be any different than the last attempt?

Ciscomani: Well, that proposal failed for several reasons. It never made it over to the House. And several of us were critical of aspects of the bill itself. What needs to happen on these bills is that both chambers need to have an opportunity to be able to have a voice and amend them, and be able to tweak the things that we think need to be changed on it. And we could go through what I thought that the Senate bill still needed. But it never made it to the House, and we didn't get the opportunity to actually voice our thoughts on that.

But it's got to be something that brings both sides to the table. And that takes care of certain aspects of it, not just one facet of it. That actually recognizes, like I said, the full spectrum of what's happening at the border. I think if it's, again, led by Republicans and Democrats, but several, not just a couple. I think that also brings a different element to it.

Khmara: Um, okay. I mean, wasn't the delegation with Sinema also Democrats and Republicans?

Ciscomani: It was — Sinema’s an Independent, and there was a Republican involved in there as well. I don't know who the Democrat lead was in the Senate. And I don't know who else was involved. But when you get more people involved, you actually have different points of views.

(The members involved in crafting the bipartisan Senate border security bill that never made it to the floor included: Independent Kyrsten Sinema, Republican James Lankford (Okla.) and Democrat Chris Murphy (Conn.).)

In this case, you have someone from New York who's getting a large influx of migrants coming to their towns and cities there, to their state. You have obviously Arizona where people are crossing but they're not staying — that has also different elements to it. And then you've got Illinois who's also receiving a lot of migrants that are flown into Chicago specifically. And of course, California with Young Kim, who's seen both people arriving there, but also crossing in the southern part of the state. So I think it's different in that sense.

I think things move at a different speed in the House as well. The House and the Senate are very different. They're two equal branches, two equal sections of the same branch of government, but they move very differently. And you’ve got to work with more people as you move it through.

So this is, again, whatever we end up putting together, it's right now in its early stages, and it's going to need a lot of work. It's not that easy to pass anything from the House right now. I've had two of my border security bills that made it all the way to the floor. One passed, with 56 Democrats voting for it. The other one failed a couple of weeks ago, because it needed a two thirds majority, but if it would have been just majority, it would have passed with five Democrats voting for it and every Republican as well. So I think I proposed several things that Democrats can also get behind in terms of border security. So I'm hopeful.

(The bill that passed the House with bipartisan support was HR 5585, the Raul Gonzalez Officer Safety Act, which would establish new federal criminal offenses for fleeing in a motor vehicle from a U.S. Border Patrol agent or other law enforcement who is assisting the U.S. Border Patrol while within 100 miles of the U.S. border. It has yet to get a vote in the Senate. The other bill was HR 3602, the Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention & Elimination Act, which failed in the House.)

Khmara: Can you say what are some of those things that you propose that you think Democrats will get behind? And why do you think it's so hard to get something passed through the House right now?

Ciscomani: Yes, so the thing that we all understand that we need to do is the enforcement of the border situation. This is more than just resources that we need at the border; it's a policy change that we need. When you look at what was removed in terms of policy from the ability for us to negotiate with Mexico on the Remain in Mexico Program, the Migrant Protection Protocol that was there before — that is one piece. And hearing directly from Border Patrol and also Customs of what changed and when things changed was also good to see it wasn't an opinion, it wasn't about bashing any specific elected official, there were just facts with dates on them, and how things and numbers changed. So you can tell what happened to the border crisis once Remain in Mexico was lifted, when the parole authorities started being heavily abused, when catch-and-release came back, when the construction of the wall — the different set of points that was missing still, the construction stopped. I mean, you can see all that happen. So these are all things that they were willing to consider.

And listen, when you are working in a divided government, everybody has to understand that you're not going to get everything you want. That's not the reality in that divided government.

And to answer the second part of your question, some people have an issue with that. They have a problem with not getting 100% of what they want. On every piece of legislation that we've passed, I wish we would have gotten more, but if we're going to move things through all the way to the Senate and make it a law, that's called governing, and when you have a divided government, you're going to need to find consensus and common ground.

Khmara: And so do those things that you mentioned, do you think that there's a way to find common ground on some of those topics?

Ciscomani: I do, and I'm not sure what everyone's reasons are to come to the table on this. I think they'll be driven by different aspects of this. This has been a priority of mine since the very beginning. So the fact that now border security is the number one issue for all Americans and dependents as well and definitely Republicans, whoever you're polling, whatever poll you see out there, the border is now the number one issue. That brings more people to the table that perhaps before they weren't interested in this, and they ignored the issue early on. But I've been steadfast on decisions since the very beginning. But hey, if people are now interested in being part of the solution here, you know, I want to work with whoever wants to do that.

Khmara: All right, well, I wanted to switch gears to make sure that I have time to get to — I wanted to ask you about the Arizona legislature's latest repeal on the 1864 abortion ban. I wanted to see what you thought of that action given that it affects your constituents so closely.

Ciscomani: Yeah, it affects the whole state and obviously impacts everyone. It impacts all families. I have three daughters in one stage in life. I have obviously a wife and sisters and then a mom as well. All this is just overall women's health; it’s not all impacted by this by decision, specifically on the abortion issue. But women's health is very important to everyone, and it's going to be. So it should be a top issue this cycle, and it's going to continue to be. And specifically on the 1864 law, you've probably read my statement when that decision first came down, I called on the legislature to take immediate action on that. I think it's a state issue. That's what I've always said. And they dealt with it this week.

Khmara: So you think it's a good thing that they repealed it?

Ciscomani: The law is archaic. That's what I said in my statement. We need voters and input from our community of this century, having input on that law; not from 1864. I was critical of that. And you can read my statement on that as well. That was not good for women, not good for providers to be under that. And the legislature took the action that was needed.

Khmara: All right. And so you said that you think that the state should be handling that. If there was to be a nationwide abortion ban at some point that was up for lawmakers to vote on, how would you vote on that?

Ciscomani: I think I was clear on that as well. I oppose a national ban.

Khmara: All right. Then also so there's recently been some talk about moves to remove Speaker Mike Johnson. So what is your stance on that?

Ciscomani: Those kinds of actions are exactly what makes people lose trust and faith in the functionality of government. It's completely pointless. It's a waste of time. It derails from the true mission that we were sent up there to do. It's frustrating, and we need to focus on business. We were hired by the American people to govern. And that's what we need to start doing. And people need to stop trying to derail our progress that we need to make. There are a lot of things we need to tackle. And a lot of work that we need to do. Like I said when you're living in a divided government the workload and what it takes to get something through doubles. We shouldn't be wasting time with this. So I would not be supporting a motion to vacate at all.

Communications Director Paige Lindgren: All right we need to wrap it there today, Danyelle, but happy to answer any other questions that you might have for him offline.

Khmara: Okay, even though you said I could have 15 minutes and it hasn't been 15.

Lindgren: We gotta run. He's got a schedule to keep. I'm sorry.

Khmara: All right. Well, Congressman, I really appreciate you making the time. Thank you so much.

Ciscomani: Thank you, Danyelle.

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