GOP Senators Hint That Immigration Debate Should Take Years

Posted March 19, 2013 at 6:56pm

Six Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee wrote Tuesday to Chairman Patrick J. Leahy urging him to allow ample time for debate when the panel considers comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation as early as next month.

The six, including ranking member Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, cited the process to pass the 1986 overhaul bill as an example of how much time would be adequate.

“Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act was first introduced in 1982, the committee had 100 hours of hearings and 300 witnesses before marking up the bill,” the letter said. “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 1985.”

“Accordingly, we respectfully request 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.”

The group also asked that the committee “on the overarching issues integral to the legislation” want the opportunity to question Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“The last Department of Homeland Security Oversight hearing was April 2012, and members are still waiting for Secretary Napolitano to provide answers to follow-up questions,” the letter said.

The letter comes as immigration revisions are gaining momentum, with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announcing support for effort. Additionally, a bipartisan group of eight senators is working on the legislation that the Judiciary Committee is expected to consider.

“We believe the process we have described is in keeping with your longstanding commitments to regular order and transparency,” the letter said.

Along with Grassley, the signatories are Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz, both of Texas.

On Monday, Grassley and Sessions warned against taking up the issue just for political expediency. They were reacting to recent support for immigration changes by the Republican National Committee in a report analyzing how to keep the GOP competitive in future elections after its failed 2012 presidential campaign.