Former Florida governor Jeb Bush called immigrants ‘more fertile’ during his speech at the annual conservative gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition convention in which he praised the role of transplants in America.
No joke. As part of his pitch for immigration reform to the conservative, evangelical-leaning audience on Friday, Bush said immigrant labor is crucial to the U.S. economy, especially because immigrants are “more fertile.”
“Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans,” he said, adding, “Immigrants are more fertile, they love families, they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity.”
And that was just day two of the faith-and-freedom-themed Republican party.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when conservatives gather before the organization run by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed. It kicked off its annual event, titled the “Road to Majority,” on Thursday. Its aim is to strengthen the evangelical base, which often turns out in big numbers. It’s also a chance for potential 2016 presidential candidates to strut their stuff.
The three-day conference in Washington, D.C., comes as a number of social issues have been simmering this week, including a slew of bills seeking to restrict abortion rights as well as gun control, immigration, and gay marriage–all of which have been central to the national discourse in recent months.
But the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s ideals may not jive with the Republican National Committee, which in its post-election autopsy report said the GOP needs to be more “inclusive and welcoming” when it comes to social issues. Otherwise, the report said, the party’s ability to attract younger voters and women may be diminished.
That didn’t stop conservatives from going full force at the conference, however. Here are some key moments thus far:
Sen. Rand Paul says the U.S. is funding a global ‘war against Christianity’ : Talk about fear-mongering. The Kentucky libertarian insisted there’s a “war against Christianity” being spearheaded by liberal elites at home and worldwide. “You, the taxpayer, are funding it,” Paul argued. “You are being taxed to send money to countries that are not only intolerant of Christians but openly hostile.” The senator has repeatedly called for ending aid to countries that have a large population of Muslims, including Libya, Pakistan, and Egypt.
Sen. Marco Rubio plays up his pro-life stance: The Florida senator and rising GOP star said the audience should not be silenced from speaking about the values they’ve fought for. “We know that every single human life—whether they can speak or not, whether they are born or not, whether they have a lawyer or not, whether they are registered to vote or not, every single life has value,” said Rubio while making a moral argument for immigration reform. He added those people “deserve protection of our laws and values.”
Chris Christie is a no-show: Perhaps almost as important who attends the conference is who isn’t there. The popular, up for re-election, New Jersey governor declined to attend the conference. Instead, he’ll be in Chicago on Friday to attend a symposium sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation spearhead by former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Michele Bachmann says immigration reform will wreak havoc on our tax system:The retiring Republican congresswoman and failed presidential candidate struck a different note than Bush on creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“The estimate is that the average illegal alien that comes into the United States, the average age is 34 years old. The average education level is about 10thgrade,” said Bachmann. “That’s not to demean the person coming into the United States for a lack of education. But it isn’t prudent to think that if you are 34 years of age with a 10thgrade education or less, it’s tough to believe that that person will be paying more in taxes than they will be receiving in benefits.” She also argued reform would hurt Hispanics and African-Americans who “already suffer very high levels of unemployment.”
Mark Sanford worries he’s ‘not worthy’: The disgraced, former South Carolina governor–who recently won a seat in Congress–acknowledged his extramarital affair, which derailed his gubernatorial career. “I recognize the ways in which I am not worthy of offering my opinion and my perspective to you on a whole range of things due to my failures in 2009,” said Sanford, who said he initially turned down the offer to speak at the conference. The Republican said, however, that he decided to attend because he “believed in the God of second chances.”
Paul Ryan tries to explain his 2012 loss: The Wisconsin congressman and failed vice presidential candidate said he and Mitt Romney lost last year because they were railing against the “empty promises” of Obama’s healthcare law, which had not yet been implemented.
“Remember, in his first two years, he passed his big program, but he didn’t implement his program,” Ryan said. “Now in his second term, we’re seeing it implemented. And it’s pretty darn ugly.”