FORT MILL — While Washington is still a place of great political divide, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney said Friday that he is hopeful Congress will make immigration and trade reforms in the next 18 months.
Speaking at the York County Regional Chamber of Commerces annual legislative breakfast, Mulvaney, a Republican, blamed President Barack Obama for the political divide, saying the president needs to be the leader of the nation and not the leader of the Democratic Party.
But Mulvaney said there is consensus among Congress on the big issues surrounding immigration and that free trade agreements with Europe would allow South Carolina to compete on the highest levels.
About 100 people attended the breakfast at the Fort Mill Golf Club. State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, talked about the current legislative session, and members of the York County delegation answered questions.
Mulvaney, of Indian Land, said three issues must be part of immigration reform.
The first is securing borders, and that is more than building fences. One-half of the people who come here, come legally and they stay, he said.
The second is reforming legal immigration policy, especially the programs that allow farmers to import migrant labor. These are jobs that Americans will not do, Mulvaney said.
The third issue is the 11 million undocumented workers, he said. We will never round them up and ship them home.
Mulvaney said any policy that passes Congress needs to moral and fair, but we cant give privilege to these people, putting them ahead of people who are undergoing the legal immigration process.
Mulvaney said he was hopeful these areas could be addressed as the level of rhetoric on immigration is much lower now.
On the upcoming budget cuts that are part of the so-called sequestration, Mulvaney said fears have been overstated, and people need to take a deep breath, relax and think it through.
The cuts represent about 12 percent of a $380 billion budget. Most of the agencies affected would see their budgets cut to 2008 or 2009 levels.
This is not the end of the world, Mulvaney said.
About half of the sequestration cuts are to the military, and that distribution is wrong.
Responding to audience questions about gun control, Mulvaney said there has been a good, healthy discussion. He said many would support expanded background checks but that he doubted checks would be extended to private transactions. He said there is also support for sharing mental health records, noting that South Carolina is one of 23 states that doesnt share its information with the federal government.
Mulvaney said some support limiting the size of ammunition magazines, some of which can hold up to 30 rounds. Mulvaney said he would not support such restrictions.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066