SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Republican governors gathered for their annual fall meetings were quick to criticize the dysfunction among lawmakers in Washington, but they were less eager to suggest solutions to some of the most pressing legislative questions — including the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.
Congressional lawmakers of both parties agree that the existing system isn't working, but the legislative progress has screeched to a halt amidst doubt that a compromise could pass the Republican-run House.
Republican governors insisted Thursday that the congressional stalemate must be broken, but what exactly they want lawmakers to do to fix the system is unclear.
"The fact is that we have a broken immigration system in this country that needs to be fixed, and how it needs to be fixed will be determined, if they finally get to work, by the national leaders in this country, starting with the president and continuing with the leaders in Congress, to sit down and come to a solution," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association. "What that solution contains is going to be up to them to determine."
Christie would not say whether he would support a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, a central dispute between a Democratic Senate and a Republican House.
"Well, I don't have to answer the question the way you want me to," he said.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also urged Congress approve comprehensive immigration reform — but did not recommend any specific actions.
"At some point, D.C. needs to actually do something, say something," Haley said.
It's not surprising that governors would avoid the topic of immigration reform, which has proven politically dangerous to those Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who waded in to discussions over a potential compromise.
Even those governors who did broach the subject remained vague about the direction in which they hoped to see the federal government move.
"I think the way forward is to put border security first," said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, citing the top Republican priority in the debate.
"It's hard to get anything done if we don't have secure borders," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
Scott added that fixing the work visa program would be another positive step.