Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has dissented from his fellow “Gang of Eight” members on the issue of how quickly to pass the group’s comprehensive immigration reform legislation, joining many of his Republican colleagues in demanding an less hasty, and more open and transparent, immigration reform debate.
“You have said that ‘delay for delay’s sake’ would be a mistake in this matter, I agree,” Rubio wrote in a letter Saturday to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy. “But excessive haste in the pursuit of a lasting solution is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share.
“We owe it to the American people to get immigration reform right this time, so that future Congresses and future generations do not face the broken system we see today. A rush to legislate, without fully considering all views and input from all senators, would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence,” Rubio wrote.
Earlier this month, Leahy feuded with several Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee after they protested Leahy’s apparent plan to rush new immigration legislation through the committee. Only Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both members of the “Gang of Eight,” declined to sign a joint letter to Leahy.
They noted that while only three hearings had been held on the issue in 2013,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 [from committee] in August of 1985,” they wrote.
In a vitriol-filled response to that letter that he sent to only Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) days later, Leahy claimed that “during the four Congresses that preceded this one,” or over the past eight years, an additional forty hearings had been held “on these issues.”
Leahy argued that “we have conducted multiple hearings on the exigent need for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system,” and that he now hoped “to turn to comprehensive immigration legislation and consider it through our normal Committee process.” Leahy did, however, admit that “we do not have a legislative proposal before us.”
Rubio’s response to Leahy asked him to ensure that any legislative package his committee brings forth on immigration reform “depends on the acceptance and support of the American people.”
Rubio added that such popular American support “can only be earned through full and careful consideration of legislative language and an open process of amendments.”
“While you and your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee will agree on the details, I respectfully suggest that such a process must begin with a careful examination in the Committee including: hearings that explore multiple perspectives on the scope of the problems we face and the efficacy of the solutions we propose, markups in which a broad range of amendments can be considered, and a robust floor debate,” Rubio wrote.
“All of this, and any Conference Committee deliberations, should occur in the full view of the American people, broadcast on CSPAN, and streamed live on the internet.”
Rubio maintained that hearings in the previous Congresses are hardly enough and that the present Congress needed to examine all issues on immigration reform thoroughly before acting on any legislative package.
“I cannot urge strongly enough that such a discussion start with meaningful hearings,” Rubio said. “Of particular importance is a full consideration of border security proposals, including testimony from border security experts, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and others. A key feature of our bipartisan approach has been an insistence on meeting border security and other enforcement triggers before unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residence. But the success of these triggers will require examining what the American taxpayer’s commitment must be in order to make this security plan a reality.”
Rubio’s support for a open, measured legislative process, rather than rushing a large and complicated bill through Congress, directly contradicts what other members of the so-called bipartisan “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform have done publicly.
Graham and Flake have not backed their colleagues, despite the opportunity to do so. Spokespersons for each have failed to respond to Breitbart News’ request for whether they stand with Rubio and the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois, also members of the “Gang of Eight” and the Senate Judiciary Committee, have not indicated whether they back fellow “Gang” member Rubio or fellow Democrat Leahy on this matter. Spokespersons for Schumer and Durbin have not responded to Breitbart News on where the two stand, either.
Because no bill or legislative text has even been proposed yet, Rubio’s move this weekend represents a potentially significant divide emerging among “Gang” members over procedural issues.
If a bill is rushed through, as Leahy wishes, it could potentially pass Congress before the beginning of the summer. Yet a stark disagreement over that process could potentially derail reform efforts altogether.
UPDATE: Flake spokeswoman Genevieve Rozansky indicated that her boss does not stand with Rubio and all the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans except for Graham on this matter. “Senator Flake looks forward to considering the bill under regular order,” Rozansky said in a statement to Breitbart News.