Deal or No Deal, Rubio Wants More Immigration Hearings

Posted March 30, 2013 at 9:37pm

Sen. Marco Rubio on Saturday urged Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to hold new hearings and provide for lengthy debate on immigration legislation that the Florida Republican is drafting with a bipartisan group of eight senators.

“I write to express my strong belief that the success of any major legislation depends on the acceptance and support of the American people,” Rubio said in a letter to Leahy, D-Vt. “That support can only be earned through full and careful consideration of legislative language and an open process of amendments.”

Leahy, in a recent letter addressed to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — who is concerned Leahy intends to ram the bill through the committee — had said that he plans to take up the bill from the group of eight as soon as possible. Leahy also said he wanted to provide an opportunity for debate and amendments in an open and transparent process. He also noted that committee has held over 40 immigration-related hearings in the previous four Congresses.

“I am aware that the Judiciary Committee, both under your leadership and under the leadership of your predecessors, has conducted a number of hearings related to immigration reform,” Rubio wrote. “I am certain that those hearings deepened your knowledge of these issues and will guide much of your work this Congress. But they cannot be a substitute for fresh hearings to consider specific legislation as part of a national conversation.”

Rubio added that while he agrees with Leahy that delaying the bill too long would be a mistake, so would an effort to rush it to the floor.

“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.

Sessions subsequently issued a statement applauding Rubio and reiterating his demand for a months-long committee process on any immigration bill.

“What we need, and must have, is a full and thorough national discussion over every component of this bill. The timeline presented by Chairman Leahy — as well as Leader [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] and President Obama — is unacceptable,” Sessions said. “The committee must have a detailed series of public hearings on the Gang of 8 immigration bill after it is produced followed by an extended markup process. A sound committee process will take months — not weeks. I urge Chairman Leahy to commit to such a schedule before the Gang produces any potential legislation.”

Sessions also demanded that the hearings address his concerns about how “large influx of low-skill labor, combined with an amnesty for illegal workers, will impact the wages” and “whether illegal aliens will eventually, like current green card holders, become eligible for a vast array of federal benefits,” among other things.

Rubio’s letter comes after labor and business negotiators announced that they reached an agreement on a guest worker program, which clears a significant hurdle to drafting and passing immigration reform legislation in the Senate.

While the agreement is a significant step forward, the bipartisan group of eight senators working on the bill must still sign off on it, and other issues remain to be worked out, sources said.

Gang of eight “closer to agreement on ?#immigrationreform. Still have details to iron out, however,” group of eight member Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wrote in a tweet.