Rep. O'Rourke on Powerhouse Politics: Calls to abolish ICE just a 'slogan'

PHOTO: Texas Congressman Beto ORourke addresses the press after he and other politicians visited the tent city, June 23, 2018, in Tornillo, Texas.PlayPaul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH Paul Ryan calls Democrat bill to abolish ICE 'craziest position I've ever seen'

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas this fall, says that his fellow Democrats’ call to abolish ICE is just a “slogan or a bumper sticker” that won’t accomplish anything.

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“Abolishing ICE does nothing to resolve any...issues,” the congressman told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Rick Klein and MaryAlice Parks. “It is the practices, it is the way in which we are treating our fellow human beings that needs to be changed, and that won’t come with a slogan or a bumper sticker or the abolition of one department.”

O’Rourke, who represents the El Paso area and has visited detention sites several times, noted that abolishing ICE won’t solve the still-pressing issue of family reunification after minors were separated from their parents at illegal border crossings.

He said Customs and Border Control and Border Patrol agents “have been apprehending” and “separating” families at the border. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement “can’t connect child with family once that child is in their custody,” he said – not ICE.

Resolution can only come through “thoughtful policy that bring people from both parties together,” in his eyes. “It's time for the institution of Congress to stand up and do its job.”

PHOTO: Rep. Beto ORourke, D-Texas, during a campaign stop at the University of Texas at Dallas, Sept. 20, 2017, in Richardson, Texas | Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 22, 2018. AP
Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, during a campaign stop at the University of Texas at Dallas, Sept. 20, 2017, in Richardson, Texas | Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 22, 2018.

In the meantime, O’Rourke predicts that the Trump administration will not make the Thursday deadline to reunite families separated at the border.

“It is clear to me that the administration is not going to make its deadline,” he said. “This country was in no way prepared for the industrial scale of family separation.”

“This is one of the most inhumane cruel things I've ever seen this country do and it was the decision of the president,” he continued. “It is something that every one of us as Americans is now part of.”

While O’Rourke recently said he would vote to impeach President Trump if such a measure advanced to the House floor, O’Rourke added that he has “never called for [his] impeachment” directly. He also emphasized the difference between impeachment and conviction, which only the Senate would vote on and would result in removing a president from office.

“Impeachment is an indication that there is something there. I would liken it to an indictment,” he explained. “A conviction is...something that members of the Senate would have to consider after having all of the facts.”

PHOTO: President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, FILE
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.

These facts would come from the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to O’Rourke. Until then, he says: “I don’t think that [impeachment] is possible right now.”

The Democratic lawmaker will face Cruz, R-Texas, in the general election, in a race that has drawn the attention of national Democratic activists and donors. When asked if he would commit to voting for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as Democratic leader if he is elected, O’Rourke said “no.”

“I would have to...listen to those who are vying for that position and then make the best-informed decision. But I've not spoken to [Sen. Schumer] or really anyone about it. In fact, this is the first time I've been asked the question.”

Every Wednesday, ABC Radio and iTunes brings you the Powerhouse Politics Podcast which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.