Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is not backing down from his demand for an open and transparent immigration reform process after Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy refused to accommodate his request.
Last Saturday, Rubio wrote to Leahy asking for what Rubio’s office said in a press release was a request for “several hearings thoroughly examining” any immigration reform legislative package before Leahy would try to pass the legislation.
“I cannot urge strongly enough that such a discussion start with meaningful hearings,” Rubio wrote to Leahy.
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.
“For example, the legislation we will propose as a starting point for debate provides an estimate of money that will be required to fully implement the border security and fencing plan,” Rubio added. “But we need hearings to determine exactly how much money must be appropriated and which measures are most needed to achieve our border enforcement goals.”
Leahy’s response to Rubio was that he would “consider” holding just one hearing on immigration reform, but the Vermont Democrat would not even guarantee that.
“By this summer, I hope that all members of the Senate will be able to vote for or against comprehensive immigration reform, and that each member will take into consideration the significant process that the Senate Judiciary Committee will have completed,” Leahy wrote.
Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant, according to Politico, characterized Leahy’s response saying he would “consider” just one hearing as “a good sign” that Leahy “has recognized the need for a public hearing on the bipartisan proposal.”
“Sen. Rubio has always said that public hearings and debate are critical to the process,” Conant told Politico. The left-leaning Talking Points Memo argued that Conant’s comment suggested “the recent dustup over procedure is fading away.”
Conant told Breitbart News, though, that Rubio is not backing down from his call for multiple hearings on the legislation. “We expect there will be several hearings,” he said. “That is an important and necessary part of the process.”
Rubio’s letter to Leahy had echoed a call from every Senate Judiciary Committee Republican except for Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both members of the bipartisan so-called “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform.
The Republican members on the Judiciary Committee noted in their request for more hearings that only three hearings had been held on the issue in 2013. Meanwhile, the last significant immigration reform bill in the Senate, the Immigration Reform and Control Act 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.
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said Leahy’s responses to both Rubio and the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans “alarmed” him.
“I was alarmed by Chairman Leahy’s letter to Senator Rubio in which he rejects the GOP call for thorough and full consideration of any comprehensive immigration bill,” Sessions said. “Chairman Leahy’s letters to both Senator Rubio and to Committee Republicans reveal a determination to rush a bill through before the public can get involved in the process.”
“Chairman Leahy, Leader Reid, and President Obama once again want Congress to pass a far-reaching bill before the American people know what’s in it,” Sessions claimed. “Now that the special interests have what they want, the deal has been made: force it through and set the public interest aside.”