Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Republican U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee chairman from Virginia, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he backs a bill to let companies such as Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. release statistics on data they turn over to the National Security Agency.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, thank you for being with us.
BOB GOODLATTE: Al, it’s great to be with you and your viewers.
HUNT: We’re going to get to immigration and budget and some other matters in a minute, but 20 of your colleagues this week introduced a bill to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder. Are you going to hold hearings on that or just deep-six that bill?
GOODLATTE: We have had a lot of hearings with regard to the attorney general’s actions on a number of issues, from Fast and Furious to the recent scandal regarding Fox News and the Associated Press. And we did a complete study of that. We wrote a letter to the president of the United States asking him to - to fire him.
HUNT: I know you don’t want to keep him, but do - do you want him impeached?
GOODLATTE: I have followed what I think is the law. We will continue to conduct oversight. If we determine that there are impeachable offenses, we would look at that. But at this point in time, we think that the process of holding him in contempt and that moving through the courts is where we should watch this right now.
HUNT: Mr. Chairman, I mean, I think, you know, you can disagree with a lot of his policies, his management style, and everything else, and a lot of people do, but no attorney general in history has ever been impeached. And the impression this leaves with some people is this is just a kooky fringe of your party, and rather than say, “Hey, go away, this is not a serious issue” -
GOODLATTE: Well, you’re right. But I can remember during the Bush administration a number of members, including the former chairman of the committee, introducing articles of impeachment with regard to President George Bush, so -
HUNT: And we all agreed that was kooky, right?
GOODLATTE: The - the fact of the matter is that people should be held accountable for their actions, and when those actions call for impeachment - I’ve been involved with the impeachment of another president and with judges that have been removed from office, but we’ll continue to watch it and do our -
HUNT: You don’t think Eric Holder is going to be impeached, though, do you?
GOODLATTE: He’s not going to be impeached right now, that’s for sure.
HUNT: Let me turn to immigration. You have passed four - four piecemeal bills, parts of immigration, all on party-line votes. Do you really think you can get any significant immigration measures through the House without any Democrats?
GOODLATTE: I think that the process will have Democratic support as we move forward. This is a step-by-step approach. You’ve got to remember that the bill passed out of the Homeland Security Committee was bipartisan.
HUNT: It was.
GOODLATTE: The four that were passed out of Judiciary came right on the heels of the Senate passing their bill. And so the Democrats’ in the committee goal at that time was to force the House to take the Senate bill, so there were no votes for anything other than what the Senate bill contained. I think that attitude has changed. It’s an improvement. We continue to work on more bills. We want to address all three areas of immigration reform, enforcement first, legal immigration reform to help grow our economy, and finding the appropriate legal status for those who are not lawfully here.
HUNT: Because that’s what Democrats say. They say, if you go and - you know, you don’t have to do the Senate bill, per se, but if you do something that creates legal status for the 11 million undocumenteds, or many of them, with some kind of pathway to citizenship, however you frame it, that they’ll then play back, if you will. So is that - is that under consideration by Bob Goodlatte?
GOODLATTE: What we object to in the Senate bill is a pathway to citizenship, particularly the special pathway to citizenship provided in the Senate bill. We also object to what we consider to be the same mistake made in 1986, where they gave an easy pathway to citizenship to nearly 3 million people.
HUNT: You’re not ruling out some pathway, just it has to be done differently than the Senate. Is that correct?
GOODLATTE: Well, what we - what we are looking at is an appropriate legal status. Now, there are going to be, you know, back taxes and penalties and that kind of thing, but a legal status that doesn’t advance somebody ahead of people who have done immigration legally and lawfully for generations is more appropriate. And our step-by-step approach is aimed at getting at addressing all three of these areas. But we’re not there yet. So it’s hard to tell -
HUNT: When do you think you’ll - when do you think you’ll pass - and do you think you will pass immigration bills in this Congress, not this year, but in this Congress, and when?
GOODLATTE: Well, the bills that have passed the committee already could go to the floor at any time. But we do feel that we need to examine that third area, the issue of legalization, and so -
HUNT: But do you think it’ll pass this Congress?
GOODLATTE: I think it could pass this Congress.
GOODLATTE: But we have to take this step-by-step approach and get enforcement in place, and that’s the - that’s the key issue here. We can agree on how we would handle people who are not lawfully here, but I would not support giving them a legal status before we have the e-verification and the new border security and entry-exit visas.
HUNT: But after that, conceivably?
GOODLATTE: After that, I think it is unreasonable to think that we’re going to deport millions of people from the country. So having a legal status for them, where they can live here and work here and own a business here and pay their taxes here and travel to and from their home country, wherever else, would be a much better situation for our economy, for our country, than the current status of people not being accounted for.
HUNT: Let’s look at this from 30,000 feet for a minute. I look right now, the AFL-CIO is for the Senate bill, the Chamber of Commerce is for the Senate bill, Silicon Valley is for the Senate bill, McDonald’s is for the Senate bill. Catholic bishops are for it, Evangelical Protestants, Rupert Murdoch, and Michael Bloomberg, who owns this network. The impression that’s given is that you’re letting the Steve Kings, the nativists, even the racists, you know, influence the decisions of people like you and John Boehner.
GOODLATTE: Not at all. We believe that there’s a right way to do this -
That doesn’t change the fact that we need to address all three of these areas, and we should do it, but we should do it responsibly, and we should do it right. And it’s more important to get it done right than by any specific timetable. That’s the mistake that was made in 1986.
HUNT: Mr. Chairman, let me turn to two other quick issues.
Chairman - you’ve supported Chairman Sensenbrenner’s bill to crack down on FISA abuses, to let companies in some circumstances disclose requests -
GOODLATTE: Let me - let me be careful there. I have supported his effort, and there are many things in his bill that I like. But I am not a co-sponsor of the bill, but I am definitely supportive of the effort to reform in this area. I think it’s very important.
HUNT: Are you supportive of letting companies release information for some of the requests?
GOODLATTE: Yes. I think - I think that’s right. But, again, we have to make sure that we are both protecting the civil liberties of Americans and their privacy, at the same time we recognize that gathering the information regarding threats to the United States, when done appropriately, needs to continue to be done.
HUNT: Do you think something like that will pass this Congress, not this year?
GOODLATTE: I think it - I think it very well could and should.
HUNT: And that would include - and include some kind of guarded, at least, ability of companies to release information?
GOODLATTE: I would say that’s important, because companies who are cooperating with the government and yet have information misrepresented about them by their competitors elsewhere in the world and so on need to be able to stand up and say, “We’re doing the right thing here, and we’re protecting our customers, our consumers, the users of our services at the same time.” So finding a way to do that, having more transparency in the court, figuring out what to do to make sure that American citizens are not having data gathered by their government and then utilized in ways that they don’t know and trust, are all things that need to be part of this.
HUNT: Very quick question. Only have about 20 seconds left. Do you think there will be any kind of a budget deal by Dec. 12? Or is that unlikely?
GOODLATTE: We’re working very hard to do it. What’s disappointing, though, is that the magnitude of this problem, with a $17 trillion national debt, the amount of that debt doubling in the last five years, and the threat that that has to our economy, not just down the road, but in the near term, is not being addressed because the - we’ve had tax increases, we’ve had the one-third of our budget that is discretionary with the Congress, all have taken hits, but not the entitlement programs.
HUNT: Chairman - Chairman Bob Goodlatte of the great state of Virginia, thank you so much for being with us.
GOODLATTE: Thank you, Al.
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