MR. SMITH: Mary Landrieu is the senior senator from Louisiana. She joins us this morning from New Orleans. Congressman Charlie Melancon represents the district where the oil is headed.
Good morning to you both.
REP. MELANCON: Good morning.
SEN. LANDRIEU: Good morning.
MR. SMITH: Senator, let me start with you. We have heard varying estimates about the amount of oil that is seeping out from underneath the sea bed, as many as 5,000 barrels a day. Some estimate it may be even five times greater than that.
Do you have a good handle on how much oil is literally seeping into the Gulf right now?
SEN. LANDRIEU: Well, Harry what I can tell you it’s too much. And to put that in perspective as clearly as I can, in the last decade, the last decade, we’ve only had 7,000 barrels seep into the Gulf. We’re getting 7,000, at a minimum, every day and a half with this spill.
So it’s not really a spill. It’s an uncontrolled flow. And to date, BP or any of their partners have not been able to plug this well. And that is the first and most urgent order of business. But I have to tell you, I’m sorry to say, Harry, that if they cannot get that valve closed — you know, the blow-out preventer which failed — the first time that this has happened — the only other way that we know to do it is to drill another well to plug it. And that will take anywhere from 60 to 90 days.
MR. SMITH: Three-month’s time. Congressman Melancon, talk about the folks in your district. What exactly is at stake for them?
REP. MELANCON: Everything’s at stake. This is catastrophic. The ecosystem, the coastal wetlands, the marshes, as we refer to them in Louisiana, America’s wetlands, are the most productive in the country, maybe even in the world.
Thirty percent, roughly, of all the seafood consumed in this country has its origins and beginnings in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. So it’s catastrophic. We wrote to National Marine Fisheries last week and sent a letter handle-delivered that said, please get ready to allocate monies to support the fisheries and the fishermen.
In the meantime, they’re out there — they want to save their wetlands. This is about saving what makes their living. This is about the area that they’ve all grown up in and grown to love and make their living from it. So it’s important to them that they save it. We’ve been pushing — yesterday, Lisa Jackson and I met with fishermen and OEC people down in St. Bernard Parish. She was going back to meet with the BP people.
It is imperative that they respond and respond as we tell them rather than question what we’re asking. We know the land. Those fishermen know the land. They know the waters. They can get the job done. We need to depend on them. It’s their livelihood at stake.
MR. SMITH: Senator, this is, at minimum, catastrophic. Has the government done enough in response to this? Were they clued in enough early enough?
SEN. LANDRIEU: I believe they understood the seriousness when this blowout took place. I know that that communication was made, and I know that the federal government has leaned forward since day one. But, obviously, it’s not enough on any part; not at the federal, the state or BP. And we all have to do better.
But, Harry, I’ll say this. Our delegation has been asking for over 25 years for this government and our nation to understand that this might be 100 percent of the nation’s oil, but, right now, it’s 100 percent of our risk. We have been begging and pleading and making the strongest case possible for revenue sharing so we can make our marshes stronger, so we can invest in better research, so we can get our own people, you know, up to snuff a little bit better to help protect.
So I hope this message will come clear. And that’s one of the things we’ll take away. We need more research. We need, you know, more fail-safe processes. And we need revenue sharing for these Gulf Coast states.
MR. SMITH: Congressman, especially down there where your folks have had to, you know, rebuild after hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, how many blows can those folks take?
REP. MELANCON: These are very enduring people. They’re tough. But you’re right. It becomes wearing after a while.
They will resolve in time, but we have to help them through this process. And then back to what you were asking Senator Landrieu, you know, our government needs to get somewhere in between “Drill, baby, drill” and “Spill, baby, spill.” Excuse the expressions.
But we need to start having safety be priority not only for the people that work on those rigs but for the estuaries that are surrounding them. They thought at 50 miles that the government gave them the permits that they’d never see oil in because of the distance.
MR. SMITH: Sure.
REP. MELANCON: Well, they were wrong.
MR. SMITH: Big time.
REP. MELANCON: We need to correct that. We need to make sure that it’s as safe as it can be.
MR. SMITH: Congressman, would you go so far as to say that BP has almost been cavalier in its attitude toward this?
REP. MELANCON: My dealings with them, I wouldn’t say that. But I think, as a general body, moving forward, they have not moved as quickly and as expeditiously as we would have liked them to. Of course, all our opinions are subjective. They feel that they’re moving forward at a good clip. A good clip to them — for us, Senator Landrieu and I — is not fast enough and it has not been effective enough.
MR. SMITH: Senator, we’re talking about a situation where there’s machinery on the sea floor. It’s 5,000 feet deep. The only way to go down there and work is with remote-controlled submarines.
They had talked about maybe building domes to capture the oil and then pump it up from that. You just said it’ll be three months at minimum if they dig a relief well.
In the meantime, if this oil continues to pour out at the rate it’s pouring out, these fisheries down there could be spoiled for decades to come.
SEN. LANDRIEU: Well, we don’t know all of those details. What we do know is there is a dome, a structure, that is being fabricated today or fixed today. I think it should have been done months ago and waiting, but we’ll look at that later.
But the only way to really plug this is to go down. So I think the government is forcing BP — and I hope this is the case — to drill two wells — hopefully, one of them will get there. And these are very expensive to do, but they’ve got to do it. And then the other thing people should have some confidence — after the Valdez spill, there was an oil spill fund set up in the Treasury. That fund is $1.6 billion. So BP has tremendous liability. And then, as a backup, this fund will kick in.
So our delegation is going to be very strong about anyone that was affected negatively being able to be fully compensated. But, you know, you’re right. We don’t know what the long-term effects are.
But I will say this.
MR. SMITH: Very quickly.
SEN. LANDRIEU: This is not the time to retreat or back up. We’ve got to find out what happened, correct it and then continue to produce the oil and gas and energy that this country needs to operate. We cannot run this business offshore.
MR. SMITH: Senator and Congressman, thank you both very much for your time this morning. We do appreciate it.
SEN. LANDRIEU: Thank you.
MR. SMITH: We’re going to be back.
MR. SMITH: Now, we turn to the other major story in the country this weekend, the uproar over the new Arizona immigration law. Former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth is a proponent of that law. He is in Phoenix. Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez was part of the protest yesterday in Washington. In fact, he was arrested outside the White House, but he is here with us this morning.
Good morning, gentlemen.
Congressman, why did you want to be arrested yesterday?
REP. GUTIERREZ: My arrest was part of a response to what I consider the immorality of our broken immigration system. We were protesting the fact that hundreds of thousands of immigrant families have been destroyed, husbands losing their wives. There are 4 million American citizen children whose parents have either been deported or under threat of deportation. It’s time to make family sacrosanct once again and to fix our immigration system.
So I was arrested yesterday because it was time, I thought, to escalate and to elevate the level of awareness and consciousness for all those who try to reach our shores and can’t because our system is broken.
MR. SMITH: Let me ask Mr. Hayworth this question. This new law in Arizona, is it really designed to get rid of undocumented people? Or is it designed to get the attention of the government so that there is, in fact, some sort of comprehensive new immigration law passed?
MR. HAYWORTH: Well, Harry, I would suggest that the law here in Arizona is designed, quite simply, to enforce federal law. And I think what has been going on here has been a massive disinformation campaign and distortion.
For example, let me read directly from the law. It says the law, quote, “shall be implemented in a matter consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.” The key phrase, “protecting the civil rights of all persons.”
So what we’re getting here is distortion. And with all due respect, to hear Luis offer his evaluation, I can recall when Luis derided the term “amnesty” saying, quote, “There’s an implication that you did something wrong and you need to be forgiven.”
So I think the real question this morning is for Luis. Luis, do you think illegal aliens have done anything wrong by being in this country without authorization?
MR. SMITH: Do you want to answer that?
REP. GUTIERREZ: Well, here’s what I would like to say. I think it’s time that we have a discussion and a debate, an earnest one. Let me tell you what I propose. I want to end illegal immigration as we know it. How would I propose to do that? I think you have to go after employers that hire undocumented workers and be very severe with them.
I’ll tell you something, Harry. The same Social Security card that my granddad got in the ’30s is the same one my grandson, whose seven years old just got. It’s time to bring new technology to make sure that everyone that works in America has a Social Security card.
So I’m ready to give a little blood and a little DNA to prove that I’m legally working in the United States of America. That way, we end the workers from being able to get those jobs.
MR. SMITH: But the people who are here illegally, should they be allowed to be here?
REP. GUTIERREZ: Here’s what I’m going to say. You see, J.D. Hayworth wants to say, if we just pass these laws, they’re going to go away. The fact is the federal government — and Mr. Hayworth was a member of Congress for many years when his party was in the majority and passed many laws. They didn’t go away.
The fact is the following. People want to think if we pass harsh laws, they’re just going to go away. That’s not going to happen. They have roots in the community. There are millions of American citizen children. And so what I say, make them learn English. Make them pay a fine. Make them pay into our system and then put them on the track so that there’s some relationship between what they did and the punishment.
MR. SMITH: But I would guess, Mr. Hayworth, your contention, that doesn’t really deal with the roots of the problem, which is a border that is porous through which millions of people come into the country.
MR. HAYWORTH: Harry, border security is national security. And it’s not only illegals coming northward from Mexico. We’ve been getting Chinese. We’ve been getting people from the Middle East. There is a huge criminal component.
Just Friday afternoon, a Pinal County sheriff’s deputy wounded, apparently, surprising drug smugglers. Now, 17 people in detention, three of them persons of interest in the shooting of the deputy sheriff.
This is a major problem, and for Luis to suggest that, somehow, we need to forgive people coming into the country illegally, that’s the root of the problem. When you enforce the law —
REP. GUTIERREZ: And here’s what I’m saying. Look —
MR. HAYWORTH: — people respond.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Look, I want to secure that border, but the fact is, Harry, 10 years, there were 10,000 border-patrol agents. There’s 20. Ten years ago, there were no fences. In some places, we’ve tripled the fences. It’s not working because, in the end, it is the jobs here in the United States that they are able to obtain that brings them.
MR. SMITH: That’s the magnet.
REP. GUTIERREZ: That’s the magnet. But let me just be very clear. I’m ready to triple that border. I’m ready to put more border-patrol agents. Won’t people like J.D. join us in a comprehensive plan so that we can take the 12 million that are here, legalize them, make them pay taxes, know who they are, fingerprint them because I’m with J.D., I don’t like criminals.
But the people that J.D. is dealing with, they’re drug smugglers, they’re criminals, they’re vicious, ruthless people, and I want to combat them with J.D.
MR. SMITH: Okay. J.D., let me ask you this. Some people would contend that this law in Arizona is racist in nature. Some have equated it even with Jews having to carry identification during Nazi Germany. How do you respond to that?
MR. HAYWORTH: That is overblown rhetoric, and it’s a tool that’s been used before. Former state senator and immigration activist or amnesty activist, Alfredo Gutierrez, put it this way, and I quote. “We call things racism just to get attention. We reduce complicated problem to racism not because it’s racism but because it works,” close quote.
Now, Harry, what’s going on is a deliberate distortion to move this from a question of enforcement to one of ethnicity.
MR. SMITH: But hang on a second.
MR. HAYWORTH: That’s not the case. I read you the language of the bill.
MR. SMITH: J.D., let me ask you this.
MR. HAYWORTH: Yeah?
MR. SMITH: If you were Hispanic and you were walking down the street today in Arizona, would you have some concern if a squad car drove by?
MR. HAYWORTH: No, I would not because there has to be reasonable suspicion. The law is very —
MR. SMITH: It was amended Friday, yeah.
MR. HAYWORTH: Because good people of good will want to go the extra mile to ensure there is not a hint of racism here.
MR. SMITH: Okay.
REP. GUTIERREZ: And I would just say the following —
MR. HAYWORTH: The other point —
REP. GUTIERREZ: And I will just say the following, Harry. Looking, the law is discriminatory. It’s the way — the Latino community, the immigrant community, they feel like, God, you know, what about all that garlic and grapes and onions we pick? What about the meat slaughter houses where we prepare the meat for the American public? Look, even in my district, you can find all the little carriages, and we see all those beautiful little babies of American citizens being raised by immigrants. We’re not criminals. We’ve come here to sweat and to toil and to work hard.
Yes, some of us crossed that border, and some of us overstayed our visa, but, by and large, we love this country. And to say that, somehow, we are all this criminal element and to target us with the discriminatory law is just wrong.
And what it’s done is galvanized and unified. And in the end, doesn’t it speak to, sadly, the lack of action of the federal government, the lack of action of us taking this core issue that’s our responsibility?
MR. SMITH: On that, I think you can both probably agree. But on the other hand, Mr. Hayworth, this notion that the passage of this law as having all kinds of unintended consequences — we have different groups deciding to boycott, move their events and even conventions out of Arizona to other states. There’s even talk about wanting to move the All Star game out of Phoenix.
Certainly, that wasn’t anticipated when this law was passed.
MR. HAYWORTH: Well, again, what Arizona wanted to do, dealing with the frustration of Washington, D.C. For example, my opponent, John McCain, has wafted between inaction and embracing amnesty. And there is a need to enforce the law in Arizona.
Now, you spoke of a boycott. What I heard from friends in California the other day is that they want to start a “buycott,” actually come to Arizona to reaffirm the fact that Arizona, all we’re doing, is enforcing federal law, enforcing laws on the books.
As we’ve heard from Luis —
REP. GUTIERREZ: You know, Harry —
MR. HAYWORTH: Excuse me. As we’ve heard from Luis, he wants to forgive law breaking. The first act of people — no matter their later motivation — in coming to the country without authorization is to break our laws. Immigration policy, border security and national security are synonymous. Crime is on the increase. Arizonans have had enough and, interestingly, a majority of Hispanics agree that this law should be enforced here in Arizona.
MR. SMITH: J.D., hang on. Luis, I’m going to give you the final word.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Thank you. The Cato Institute — not conservative, libertarian — says crime is down statistically. Look, it’s a red herring. The fact is I want to secure that border. Washington, D.C. has to get involved in securing that border.
Look, what is the greatest tool the police have in combating crime? I hate those drug dealers. I hate those involved in human smuggling. But the greatest asset that the police have are the eyes and the ears of the public. Let’s not drive a wedge between the police and the public in general. And that’s — you know who’s happy with that law? Criminals and drug dealers.
I want to end illegal immigration as we know it. I hope J.D. will join me in that effort.
MR. SMITH: Congressman, thank you very much. J.D., we do appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much.
MR. HAYWORTH: Harry, thank you.
MR. SMITH: All right.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Thanks.