Sen. Mike Lee: 'Banana Republic Quality' to Harry Reid Rushing Immigration Bill

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Immigration Bill

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said on the Senate floor Thursday evening that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tactics rushing through the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill are like those that would be used by a third-world dictator. 

Lee’s fiery comments came during a colloquy with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in which the two were fighting against Reid’s rush to pass the immigration bill.

“I find it repugnant to the system of government under which we are supposed to be operating,” Lee said of Reid allegedly pushing the bill to a vote in less than a week. “I find it even repugnant to Article 6 of the Constitution which makes it clear that there’s one kind of Constitutional Amendment that is never appropriate. 

"You can’t amend the Constitution to deny any state its equal representation in the Senate," he charged, "and if at any moment we end up with a situation in which we have second-class Senators, Senators that may commit and propose for debate and discussion and a vote on an amendment, and if we have to go to the Majority Leader and say, ‘Mother, may I?’ then perhaps we have something. Perhaps we have lost the environment in which each of the states were supposed to receive equal representation.”

Lee suggested the Senate's regular mode of operation was akin to a "banana republic" where leaders expect their subordinates to "rubber stamp" legislation without input from constituents: 

It also seems to me to take on a certain character, a certain banana republic quality that we’re asked to vote on legislation--in many circumstances, just hours or even minutes after we have received it. We take on a certain rubber stamp quality when we do that. I remember a few months ago, in connection with the fiscal cliff debate, as we approached the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Eve, we were told by our respective leaders, "just wait, something’s coming. Go back to your offices, watch your televisions, play with your toys, do whatever it is that you do but be good senators, run along and stay out of trouble. We’re taking care of this. We’ll send you legislation as soon as we’re ready."

He went on to argue that the fiscal cliff legislation was bad for the country but passed overwhelmingly because the leaders in both political parties silenced their opposition.

Lee then compared that murky process to what is happening here with the immigration bill, and noted that what happened then is “in some respects very similar” to the secret fiscal cliff deal.

After that, Lee called on his colleagues to defy Reid and “make this a real legislative body... You don’t really have a true, deliberative legislative body unless you have enough time to debate things before we vote on them, to where the members can actually read them before they come up.”

Later in the colloquy with Sessions, Lee compared Reid’s style of running the U.S. Senate to the Soviet Union.

“One of the distinguishing characteristics of a democracy is that you have choices, you have options,” Lee said. “[T]hey had elections in the Soviet Union, but the big difference was the government decided who was on the ballot... Only those candidates that had been very carefully screened by the Communist Party officials could appear on the ballot.”

The people's choices, Lee declared, "were limited so as to guarantee a certain ordained outcome.”

“Now if you’ll forgive the analogy here, what he have here makes sense, and it makes that all the 50 states are represented,” he continued. “But only if in fact we are presented with actual legitimate choices, with actual legitimate options." 

Lee concluded, "One of the reasons why we’ve seen legislation pushed through at the very [last minute], and our colleagues in this body vote for that legislation overwhelmingly, is that they’re told ‘at the moment you have no other option. You can have a binary choice here. You can vote yes, or you can no. But you don’t really have the option of making any changes to this.'”


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