Temporary Senator Denies He Cast Christie's Proxy Vote on Immigration

Image: Temporary Senator Denies He Cast Christie's Proxy Vote on Immigration

Friday, 28 Jun 2013 01:56 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa is insisting that his vote in favor of immigration reform was not a proxy vote for Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed him just this month.

"He should not in any way be tagged or labeled with any of the decisions that I make," Chiesa told The Washington Examiner.

Chiesa, New Jersey's Republican attorney general, was appointed to replace Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on June 3 at the age of 89 of complications from viral pneumonia.

Chiesa will hold the seat until October, when a special election will be held. He has already told Christie he does not plan to run for re-election.

The temporary senator has only been in Washington since June 6, but found himself in the middle of the immigration reform debate, a matter that Congress has been trying to work out for years.

On Thursday, Chiesa broke from GOP leadership and joined 13 other Republican lawmakers and all Senate Democrats to back the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is designed to strengthen the nation's borders while providing a pathway to citizenship for the some 11 million immigrants already living in the United States illegally.

Chiesa announced where he stood just hours before the vote, and said he considered the choice carefully.

"I took every chance I could through last night to consider the issues and to make the best judgment I thought I could," he said. "Ultimately, I thought it was the right thing to do."

Christie also denied Chiesa was casting a proxy vote for him in Washington.

"Listen I haven't seen these bills, I've got enough to deal with here in New Jersey. I'm not interested in being a federal official," said Christie Wednesday night on his "Ask the governor" radio program, CNN reports.

And earlier this week, in a speech, Christie said that Chiesa is "his own man. He's going to make his own decisions. However he votes down there, I've told him this from the beginning, is up to him. I'm not going to tell him what to do."

Chiesa said his support for immigration reform has no reflection on Christie, who many people expect to run for president in 2016.

He said he wanted tougher border security, stronger worker verifications for employers, and more scrutiny of criminals crossing the border. But his decision to back a bill that lacked some of those items could cause Christie some issues in New Jersey, where he is seeking a second term.

But Chiesa said Christie will "think for himself on every issue," and "it would be unfair to him to be labeled or criticized for anything I do down here."

Chiesa is New Jersey's first Republican Senator since 1982, and may be its last for a while. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, is the frontrunner in the special election.

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