Sen. Robert Menendez on 'This Week'

Sen. Menendez on immigration reform and President Obama's second term.
6:04 | 01/27/13

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Transcript for Sen. Robert Menendez on 'This Week'
And we turn now to new jersey democratic senator robert menendez, who presided over the hearings for secretary of state nominee john kerry, and should kerry be confirmed, is set to become chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. Welcome, senator menendez. Thank you for joining us. What's your reaction to what SENATOR john McCain just said? I mean, obviously you've been working with him and know -- in terms of immigration. I don't think you've been working together on some of that other stuff so much. Well, I think john said it well. I am cautiously optimistic, and as someone who has spent years between the house and the senate, trying to get comprehensive immigration reform, I'm cautiously optimistic. I see the right spirit. I see things that were once off the table for agreement and discussion being on the table with a serious pathway forward. Of course, it will have the enhancement of the border security. We've done already a lot with more customs agents. We have more border patrol. We have more physical impediment than any time in history but using greater technology, focusing our resources in a we'll achieve. Looking at making sure employers don't hire individuals who are undocumented, thinking about future flows and how we take care of the american economy by that. But also very clearly having a pathway to earned legalization is an essential element, and i think that we are largely moving in that direction as an agreement. What do you want? senator McCain said it's helpful that president obama is out on the road. What do you want to hear from him? How committed is he to getting this done? He also wants gun control. Right. Well, I was at the white house on friday with the congressional hispanic caucus leadership, and the president made it very clear in that discussion that this was a top legislative priority for him in this session of the congress and that he expects to work with all of us in an effort to achieve the goal, and he's fully committed to it, and I think that's why this week he starts the clock by the speech he's going to make out in las vegas. And that pathway to citizenship, that has to be in there? Absolutely. Latino voters in -- first of all, americans support it in poll after poll. Secondly, latino voters expect it. Thirdly, democrats want it, and, fourth, republicans need it. Shouldn't the president have invited some republicans to that meeting in the white house? Well, it was the congressional hispanic caucus. I know, but isn't there a way to find some republicans he could invite into the white house? I know there's -- in his first term he invited a very large cross-section of democrats and republicans, and i think he understands the unique role that the congressional hispanic caucus plays in the question of immigration reform, and that's why he wanted to hear from that leadership, but I am sure that those bipartisan meetings will take place and, most importantly, I am really pleased by the nature of the bipartisan meetings that we are having with a group of six senators, three democrats, three republicans, and I understand a similar process is taking place in the house. That's real movement forward. If you think about it, martha, at one time pathway to earned legalization was off the table. We were talking about sending people back as touchbacks if they had any opportunity, that's not really being discussed. We're making very significant progress. Let me move also on to benghazi. Do you think this is over? john McCain clearly does not think this issue is put to bed. Well, look, I think that -- i don't know how much more can be said about the realities of what happened in benghazi. We have the administrative review board. They made it very clear. Secretary clinton -- then what were you trying to get at? -- Took responsibility. Well, first of all -- did she make mistakes? -- My republican colleagues insisted on having that hearing before we could move on to senator kerry's nomination. And I thought it was important to hear from the secretary to close the chapter. Where, in fact, she is moving forward as she said on those 29 recommendations by the administrative review board, how do we change the lines of authority within the state department so that it's very clear who is responsible for embassy security, how do we change -- which they said they've implemented most of them. Absolutely, and that's very important so that, in fact, there are very clear lines of division. Also, how do we make sure, in fact, we look at intelligence in a different context. There doesn't have to be a specific threat. But we look at the environment in any place in the world where our foreign services are operating. I wanted to move on to chuck hagel, as well, and his nomination. Do you support chuck hagel? Is he the right man to be defense secretary? I have a meeting with senator hagel this week. I look forward to asking him a series of questions about israel, about iran as the major sponsor of the iran sanctions in the senate. I am concerned about some of the comments he has made about sanctions in the past. I think it's our best peaceful diplomacy tool to try to get the iranians to ensure we have no nuclear weapons which we cannot accept from iran and I support the president's view that it's not -- and you expect he will be confirmed? We'll see. I think that there's been enough senators who have said they would support him, but we'll see. Of course, there's the hearings. That always, you know, gives us an insight, and I look forward to his personal answers to a series of my questions. I want to go in the end here just something very quickly happening in your home state between newark mayor cory booker and 89-year-old senator frank lautenberg, who basically suggested this week that booker deserved a spanking because he was coveting his seat. Do you agree with that? Should cory booker be making moves now? You know, that election is next year, and all of the back and forth now is something I'm really not focused on. Is booker being disrespectful? You know, that's a question for senator lautenberg and mayor booker. Because you're clearly not going to answer it. Thank you very much for joining us, senator menendez.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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