On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began its mark-up of the Gang of 8 immigration proposal. With hundreds of amendments filed, the committee work is expected to take a couple weeks. If the committee holds to that timeline, the immigration legislation could reach the Senate floor by the end of the month. Republicans have filed dozens of amendments to strengthen various aspects of the bill, but Democrats have more than enough votes to reject these amendments.
Democrats hold a 10-8 majority on the committee. Chaired by VT Sen. Pat Leahy, the Democrat members of the committee are more liberal than the overall Democrat caucus. On their own, they have enough votes to reject GOP amendments. Two Republican Gang of 8 negotiators, Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, also serve on the committee. If they stay united with Democrat Gang members Sens. Durbin and Schumer, amnesty proponents have a working 12-6 majority.
The first major debate over amendments occurred over a proposal from Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley to mandate a border security trigger before illegal immigrants can be legalized. The current legislation simply requires the submission of a border security plan before current illegal immigrants are legalized and “substantial progress” on the plan is made before they can start the path to full citizenship.
Sens. Flake and Graham joined Democrats in speaking against the Grassley amendment, arguing it would delay bringing illegals “out of the shadows.” Sens. Feinstein, Durbin and Schumer argued that substantial progress has already been made to secure the border. Durbin went so far as to say that the border is “safer than its been in 40 years.”
Sens. Cornyn and Sessions disputed this strongly. Cornyn noted that just this weekend, border agents in El Paso intercepted 700 illegals attempting to enter the country. Grassley’s amendment failed. It is a process that will continue repeatedly in the coming days.