Last week, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and sponsor of SB-1070 was elected president of the Arizona state Senate. ABC15 notes that the “biggest fear” of some Republican lawmakers was that Pearce would “use the powers of the office to push controversial anti-illegal-immigration measures” instead of focusing on the state’s ailing economy. The news outlet also claims that Pearce put those fears to rest to gain the last few votes he needed to win his leadership seat by pledging to “put off” his so-called “anchor baby” legislation until 2012, and focus on pushing through an economic stimulus package in 2011.
Yet, once Pearce’s colleagues elected him Senate president, he denied making any such promises. On 12News’ “Sunday Square Off,” Pearce attempted to clarify his plans:
HOST: Senator Pearce, did you pledge not to sponsor bills targeting immigration, including a challenge to the 14th amendment?
PEARCE: No. What we agreed to was…as the president of the Senate…you know, I’m not gonna run a lot of bills. My job is to help move the agenda forward. The 14th amendment is gonna be run by other folks. But the fact that I may run a couple of bills to clean up what’s been done is true. I may do that. The 14th amendment is gonna take a lot of time. I support it. I intend to help move it. But I have other folks who would really like to help carry that water. [...]
HOST: So did Senator-elect McComish and the others just misunderstand you? — Because it was their clear understanding that there was going to be no immigration legislation this year.
PEARCE: No there wasn’t. That’s just absolutely not true. [...] He’s not completely wrong. There was no deal cut. What there was is comments by me that I’d like other folks to carry as much of this legislation as possible.
Senator-elect John McComish isn’t the only Republican surprised by Pearce’s turnabout. “What he’s committed to me was [the "anchor baby" legislation] wasn’t going to be dealt with in the first session and that we’re going to focus on the economy and jobs,” Tucson Republican Sen. Frank Antenori told ABC15. “That was the deal. I’d hate to be disappointed by Russell if he gets behind an effort to push that bill through without doing the reforms we have to do on the economy and creating jobs.”
Meanwhile, Pearce’s plan for fixing Arizona’s ailing economy seems to involve rejecting federal health care funding and stimulus funds. “The federal money comes with strings,” complained Pearce. “No longer are we going to have our hands tied by the federal government to do what’s right for Arizona.” Arizona is currently facing an estimated $825 million budget deficit. Local economist John Lucking said that Arizona can “expect to see sluggish growth through next year.”
In his interview on Sunday, Pearce would not rule out a gubernatorial run, saying “you never slam doors shut.”