Every Senate Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee except for the two involved in Sen. Marco Rubio’s “gang of eight” is demanding that committee’s chairman Sen. Pat Leahy conduct open and transparent immigration reform proceedings, a letter they sent to him on Tuesday shows.
“We write regarding your statement at the March 12, 2013, Executive Business Meeting that the Committee would take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation when the Senate returns from recess in April,” the group of GOP senators wrote. “We presume this statement was in reference to legislation reportedly drafted by the ‘gang of eight’ Senators.”
Sens. Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee signed the letter. Judiciary Committee Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, members of the so-called “gang of eight,” did not join their committee GOP colleagues in signing the letter
The committee Republicans note that the last significant immigration reform bill in the Senate, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was first introduced in 1982, had been preceded by “100 hours of hearings with 300 witnesses before marking up a bill.”
“Congress continued to debate the bill for the next three years, and even then, the Judiciary Committee spent three months reviewing the bill before it was reported in August of 1985,” they wrote.
The Republicans who signed the letter asked Leahy “that the public be given adequate time, consistent with past practice in handling complex comprehensive immigration legislation, to read and analyze the contents of any such bill before it is listed on the Committee’s Executive Business Meeting agenda.”
“We further request that during this time, the Committee hold hearings on the overarching issues integral to the legislation,” they wrote.
Thus far, the GOP senators note, only three hearings have been held or are scheduled on the topic thus far. Only one hearing, a February 13 one, focused on comprehensive immigration reform, while a March 18 hearing focused on the effects reform would have on women and families. A hearing is scheduled for March 20 to focus on “American values.”
Some of the issues Senate Republicans demanding extra hearings want to focus on include “future flow and a temporary guest worker program; border security metrics and solutions; interior enforcement, including work site enforcement and employee verification; the impact of a large scale legalization on American workers and taxpayers; and the implementation of a biometric exit system, which the Government Accountability Office has determined to be the only method by which the government can accurately track visa overstays.”
“Moreover, the last Department of Homeland Security Oversight hearing was in April 2012, and members are still waiting for Secretary Napolitano to provide answers to follow-up questions,” the GOP senators added. “Members should have the opportunity to question the Secretary on these and other important issues before being asked to cast a vote on such critical legislation.”
The GOP senators compared the current secrecy and rush to pass legislation on immigration reform to the secrecy surrounding the vote on Obamacare earlier in the Obama administration. “The last time Congress considered legislation of this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system, the negative consequences of which are only now coming to light,” they wrote.
It appears Rubio, the GOP’s driving force in favor of immigration reform, will back this idea of open and transparent process. On January 29, Rubio told Rush Limbaugh that the process would be open and transparent. “The next step in this process is to craft a starting point of legislation, and then after that it’s gonna have to go through committees and people are gonna have their input,” Rubio said then. “There’s gonna be public hearings. I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it. I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input.”
It is unclear as of yet whether Rubio still thinks the process should open and transparent. The conservative Power Line Blog questions whether he will follow through on that promise.