Immigration vote puts new senator in spotlight
June 27th, 2013
03:15 PM ET
1 year ago

Immigration vote puts new senator in spotlight

(CNN) - It's the first big test for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's handpicked placeholder in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Jeff Chiesa Thursday announced the he supports the sweeping immigration reform bill the chamber was scheduled to vote on later in the day.

In a statement, the Republican senator said "as a former Federal prosecutor and Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, I have looked carefully at this debate through the lens of public safety and law enforcement. This bill strengthens border security, E-verify and better identifies visa overstays through an improved entry/exit system. I will vote for this immigration bill because I believe it is the right thing to do."

Following the death earlier this month of longtime Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Christie named Chiesa as a temporary replacement to hold the seat until a special Senate election in October.

Steve Lonegan, who's considered the frontrunner in the August Republican Senate primary, opposes the immigration measure, which is supported by a bipartisan coalition of senators. In a statement, Lonegan said "this legislation is a pure and simple amnesty for illegal aliens and if I were a member of the U.S. Senate, I would vote no.

Christie, who's running for re-election this year and is considering a possible bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has not taken a stance on the legislation.

"Listen I haven't seen these bills, I've got enough to deal with here in New Jersey. I'm not interested in being a federal official," said Christie Wednesday night on his "Ask the governor" radio program.

And earlier this week, in a speech, Christie said that Chiesa is "his own man. He's going to make his own decisions. However he votes down there, I've told him this from the beginning, is up to him. I'm not going to tell him what to do."

Even though the measure bolsters security along the U.S.-Mexico border, it is opposed by many conservatives because of the provision which allows for an eventual pathway towards citizenship for most of the undocumented immigrants living in the country.

Since some pundits consider Chiesa a proxy vote for Christie, will the interim senator's stance on immigration reform hurt Christie in the conservative dominated primaries and caucuses, if the GOP governor decides to make a 2016 bid for the White House?

Republican strategist and CNN contributor Kevin Madden says he doesn't read too much into any one vote by an appointed interim senator.

"The short memory of this interim senator will be long gone before any 2016 voter begins to form a more certain opinion about Chris Christie and his position on immigration and other issues," says Madden, who was a top political adviser and spokesman to Mitt Romney in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Christie's standing with some on the right is already tenuous, due to the governor's continued defense of his appearance with President Barack Obama last year when the president came to survey the damage from Superstorm Sandy, just days before the November election. Some conservative critics slammed Christie, a major surrogate at the time for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, for standing side-by-side with Obama, arguing Christie, who served as a top surrogate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, helped bolster the president's image shortly before voters took to the polls.

Since the powerful storm smashed into his state at the end of October, Christie has become the face of New Jersey's recovery efforts. He sought federal relief aid and sharply rebuked Republicans in Congress who voted against the aid bill at the beginning of the year. (Congress later passed more than $50 billion in relief funds.)

Christie, who again embraced a visit by the president in May, reminded the audience that he did not vote for the president and has policy disagreements with Obama, but added that whether "you voted for him or not, in this country we have one president at a time."

– CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


Filed under: Immigration • Jeff Chiesa
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. California

    Hey Reid, How's it going to feel to have a bill you passed not voted on?

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA

    June 27, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz aka Take Back The House

    Spoken like a true statesman senator. But you can't sway the mind of Klansman Sessions.

    June 27, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    California

    Hey Reid, How's it going to feel to have a bill you passed not voted on?
    ---------------
    Much better than Boehner getting his own bill rejected by his own caucus.

    June 27, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    RINO RINO RINO RINO

    Thought I would save the righties the effort.

    June 27, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. California

    Rudy NYC

    California

    Hey Reid, How's it going to feel to have a bill you passed not voted on?
    -----
    Much better than Boehner getting his own bill rejected by his own caucus.
    ----
    Reid is the biggest problem in congress just in front of Pelosi.

    June 27, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. California

    Harry Reids bill is going nowhere.

    June 27, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Guess

    Save your yuks for after the election, your not being smart enough to not vote for a party who is trying to lower your standard of living, on every issue imaginable, is not something i would brag about, your taking the working class down with you, but your petty racism is more important, you do have the gop qualifications dont you?

    June 27, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Hey Reid, How's it going to feel to have a bill you passed not voted on? "

    Watching the GOP voluntarily stick its head in a noose feels awesome actually. Demographic Armageddon or bust!

    June 27, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Guess

    Amazing how many people with little to no money have convinced themselves the gop is their smart choice, i guess i dont understand why, even a small amount of research tells you they are lying about evry single hot issue today, allowing states to pass voter supression laws, telling women whats best for them, record fillibusters, no jobs bill, not even a token mention of it, is it really that hard to see them for what they are? ask your great grandma what the unions did for you, alot, all of it trying to be taken away, in the name of corruption, yeah right

    June 27, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. sonny chapman

    A rational Repub. !! A rarity these days. More Repub. Senators from Blue States & more Dem. Senators from Red States. Maybe this Nation can move forward with the rest of the World.

    June 27, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -California

    Rudy NYC

    California

    Hey Reid, How's it going to feel to have a bill you passed not voted on?
    -–
    Much better than Boehner getting his own bill rejected by his own caucus.
    --
    Reid is the biggest problem in congress just in front of Pelosi.
    ****************
    And Mumbles McConnell and Weeper Boehner are your idea of great leaders? What has Boehner accomplished as speaker? Any grand deals to tackle issues? If he won't work with Reid or the President , what is Reid supposed to do, let the Kentucky fossil slow the progress of the country? Oh, of course that's what you want, since all the world's problems began in 2009, right? The Golden Age came to an end when Obama became president..

    June 27, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    California wrote:

    Reid is the biggest problem in congress just in front of Pelosi.
    --------------–
    [3 Stooges snicker] Nyuck! Nyuck! Nyuuuck!
    Reid is passing bipartisan bills.
    Pelosi is doing a better job of uniting her caucus than Boehner is doing.

    June 27, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  13. just sayin

    voting for another obamacare-like disaster is nothing to brag about. you do your state and this country a disservice. insteads vote to enforce the current laws of this country before passing new ones which will be equally disregarded.

    June 27, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. lottie

    More people commenting here seem to want to stick it to harry reid than see a much needed bill pass. Is this rhino thinking??? What a stupid group of people. . My mom use to call it cutting off your nose to spite your face. That's what the repos are doing here. 2014 may not be a good year for them and 2016 will be a disaster if they don't pass immigration reform.

    June 27, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    @Dutch/Bad Newz aka Take Back The House
    Spoken like a true statesman senator. But you can't sway the mind of Klansman Sessions.
    ---------
    1. Is this the SAME guy the left hammered Christie about?
    2. Remember Robert Byrd?

    June 27, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Malcolm in St Louis

    Whooppeee the House will make a Democratic sweep more possible next election.

    June 27, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Steveo

    @Rudy NYC
    Pelosi is doing a better job of uniting her caucus than Boehner is doing.
    -----------
    Perhaps that is because she is not the leader. When she was, didn't she help chase the Blue Dogs?

    June 27, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    1. Is this the SAME guy the left hammered Christie about?
    -------------------------------------------–
    I had no ill will towards the man. I, along with my lefty cohorts know who is going to end up with this Senate seat. I applaud this temporary senator for voting on the merits of this bill and not being a partisan hack.

    June 27, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |