New House Majority Leader elect Kevin McCarthy knows the needs of California growers that populate his Congressional district in Bakersfield, but that may not translate into immediate movement for long-sought action on immigration reform in the House.
The newly elected Republican leadership, which also includes Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as majority whip, is considered more conservative than the previous group.
Immigration activists have targeted McCarthy as a key leader to change the GOP attitude toward immigration reform. Last December, a California group supporting immigration reform whose backers include the United Farm Workers had a sit-in and fast at McCarthy’s Bakersfield office. That labor-inspired action didn’t produce any results for advocates, but industry leaders believe McCarthy will be an asset.
McCarthy succeeds Eric Cantor on July 31, and his grasp of industry issues will be welcome among GOP leaders, according to a statement from Western Growers president and chief executive officer Tom Nassif.
“Majority Leader-elect McCarthy has provided critical leadership on a number of issues impacting the produce industry, including ensuring passage of a farm bill that recognizes the importance of fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, ongoing work to negotiate a solution to our water crisis, and of course working to address the immigration needs of agriculture,” Nassif said in the statement.
McCarthy know industry issues, and that will be a positive in helping to set the agenda for Republicans in the House, said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.
Industry leaders said time is short to act on immigration reform.
Western Growers was issuing a daily e-mail “countdown clock” to immigration reform, urging members to contact lawmakers to urge action. While the Senate passed their immigration reform bill almost a year ago, the House has yet to act and there remain only 18 days left (as of June 24) to pass immigration reform before the House adjourns for its August recess.
Quarles believes there are very good economic and public policy reasons for Republican to take on immigration reform now.
“We are not that far away from the next presidential election, and that issue will loom larger,” he said.
Without action this year, immigration reform may face long odds for the next three years, he said.
California growers also need assistance from Congress in dealing with the drought and preventing future hardships, said Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs for Western Growers.
“We need something done before the fall and the winter start,” he said.