Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) responded to Senate Judiciary Committee ranking GOP member Sen. Chuck Grassley’s concerns about the secrecy of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform deliberations by saying any proposal the group will come up with is intended to be just that: nothing more than a “starting point” for debate.
On Thursday evening, Sens. Grassley, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) wrote to Sens. Rubio, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), asking them to brief Senate Judiciary Republicans and the entire Senate GOP caucus on the status of “Gang of Eight” immigration talks. “The time for transparency has come Given the Majority’s rushed timetable, we believe it is time for you to discuss the status of your negotiations, disclose what concessions have been made, and provide details to members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Republican Caucus.”
That letter first came out publicly in the press on Friday afternoon. But, Rubio responded to it Friday morning by saying he has always viewed any Gang of Eight proposal as nothing more than a launch point for a bigger debate in the Senate on immigration reform.
“It has always been my view that any proposal crafted by the bipartisan group working on immigration serve as a starting point, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition,” Rubio wrote back to Grassley and his Judiciary Committee colleagues. “I can assure you that the work we have done to date has been no different – and therefore no more or less secretive – than any other process intended to develop legislation as a starting point for debate.”
“As you know, at the very beginning of this process, my office issued a standing invitation for the entire Republican conference to send me input and ideas on immigration reform,” Rubio added. “In fact, I specifically asked for proposals on border security, workplace enforcement and a process to handle the millions of people currently in this country who are in violation of our immigration laws. To date, we have received no response from any of your offices. Nevertheless, as I have shared with several of you personally, I have used previous immigration-related bills you and others have filed in the past to ensure your views were reflected in the legislation. That includes a conversation I had with Senator Sessions during the budget votes, where I personally informed him that his amendment to prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants was consistent with the proposal being worked on by the bipartisan group.”
Rubio went on to say that he thinks the “most important part of the process is what comes after the legislation is introduced,” and that he “strongly” believes “that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it.”
While Rubio says he wants an open and transparent process, powerful Senators on the other side of the aisle are expected to try to rush a bill once the Gang of Eight introduces legislation. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Pat Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, has said he will only “consider” having just one single hearing on the bill once it is introduced, despite Rubio’s and others’ calls for multiple hearings.