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Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley supports ground zero mosque construction, says may run for senate in 2012


by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley Thursday defended the right of mosque supporters to build their facility near Ground Zero in New York City, saying she supports religious freedom for all.

“I am supporting the Constitution when it comes to this issue,” Berkley, D-Nev., said. “As long as the zoning is appropriate and as long as the funding mechanism is appropriate; this mosque is being built on private property two blocks away from Ground Zero and I do not think the government ought to be involved in this decision-making process.”

Berkley said she respects the views and concerns of those who were victimized by the 9-11 attacks and who believe the mosque location is inappropriate.

“But what we’re talking about here is Constitutional protections afforded all Americans,” she said.

Berkley, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, also said she is “thinking about” running for U.S. Sen. John Ensign’s seat in 2012 but is focused now on her re-election to District 1 in Southern Nevada. Once the current campaign is over, Berkley said she will give the race more thought.

Asked if she would run if Rep. Dean Heller, R-NV, was the GOP opponent, Berkley said her decision would not be based on who was in the race from the opposition party. The race is likely to draw a number of candidates from both parties, she said.

“Senate seats don’t come up very often, and I suspect there will be a very robust campaign and primary on the Republican side and possibly on the Democratic side as well,” Berkley said.

Ensign is exploring the possibility of running for another term even though he has suffered significant political fallout after admitting in 2009 to an affair with a former staff member. An ethics investigation into how he handled the situation is under way.

Asked about the likelihood of Congress taking up immigration reform, Berkley said the issue needs to be addressed now.

“We should have addressed the immigration issue in this country 20 years ago,” she said. “It is getting worse by the day and if we continue to kick this can down the road it is not getting any better. Congress has got to step up to the plate and do our job.”

Berkley said comprehensive reforms should not include amnesty, but should find a way to address how to deal with the 12 million people residing illegally in the U.S.

In Congress fails to act, the country will see 50 different laws dealing with illegal immigration as states respond to the vacuum created without national reforms, she said. But Berkley said there are adequate laws on the books to deal with border security and illegal immigration. They just need to be enforced, she said.


Audio clips:

Rep. Shelley Berkley says she supports mosque construction on religious freedom grounds:

081910Berkley1 :23 this decision-making process.”

Berkley says she is thinking about a run for Senate in 2012:

081910Berkley2 :24 side as well.”

Berkley says Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform:

081910Berkley3 :30 are here illegally.”

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