By Lisa Riley Roche
Deseret Morning News
Immigration was the main issue that lawmakers wanted answers about from Utah's U.S. senators on Tuesday.
Both Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Bob Bennett were asked what Congress was going to do to deal with the issue — and both GOP senators said there was little chance of significant action anytime soon.
"I doubt we'll be able to do much in this election year," Hatch told state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake, when she described immigration as an issue that is "a worry for many of us."
Hatch described the failed immigration bill pushed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., as "a disaster" that would have, in effect, given amnesty to some 12 million illegal workers even though, he said, the majority didn't want citizenship.
What's needed, Hatch said, is to "find some humane, decent way of first identifying them and then going on from there." He said much has already been done to secure the borders with the use of new technology.
Bennett was also asked about immigration by Sen. Mike Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. Bennett said immigration is the "most difficult, most complicated and most emotional issue I've ever had to deal with," compared by some to handling a rattlesnake.
"My honest assessment is certainly in this session, nothing but continued appropriations is going to happen," he said.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, wanted to know what to tell his grandchildren about the growing national debt. Stephenson said the recently passed economic stimulus package amounts to little more than "simply putting some tax rebates on a collective credit card that are grandchildren are going to have to pay."
Hatch said he didn't have a lot of confidence in the stimulus bill and said the economy would be better off continuing the tax cuts set to expire in 2010. "If people do spend that (rebate) money, they'll probably spend it at Wal-Mart and a lot of those companies that get their products from overseas," he said.
Hatch and Bennett also talked about the upcoming presidential election. Hatch said he is hearing from many Democrats that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will win the nomination. Although Obama has been criticized for a lack of government experience, Hatch said his time in the Illinois Legislature should not be discounted.
Bennett said no matter which party wins the White House, for the first time since John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, a sitting senator will have been chosen to lead the nation.