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Leahy Seeks Meeting With Immigration ‘Gang of 8’

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said Tuesday that he wants to meet with the bipartisan group of senators drafting an immigration overhaul as he looks to clear a path for passage of the legislation.

“The American people have grown tired of the endless filibusters that occur regularly in the Senate,” the Vermont Democrat said in a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the senators in the immigration group.

“I look forward to working with you to overcome such obstruction in the weeks to come,” Leahy continued. “To this end, I would like to find time to sit down and discuss this with you and all the members of the gang of eight as soon as the Senate is back in session.”

His letter comes after Rubio wrote to Leahy over the weekend urging patience with the bill, which the group hopes to unveil next week. According to a spokesman, Rubio doesn’t want a rushed process to be a reason for people to oppose the legislation — which is what Rubio believes happened with the immigration effort in 2007.

In his letter, Leahy assured Rubio that he plans to move forward in a clear and open process that will allow input from all members of his committee.

“While you have conducted the process of the ‘gang of eight’ behind closed doors, I can assure you that it has always been my position as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the work of the Committee should be open to the public so I have every intention of ensuring that debate and consideration of any future comprehensive immigration reform legislation will be thorough and will be conducted in open session and streamed live on the Judiciary Committee website” Leahy said.

Rubio had also urged Leahy to hold hearings so the matter can be thoughtfully considered. Leahy responded that the committee has been holding hearings, which he hopes have informed the group’s bill.

“While we have been waiting for legislative language this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee has already held several widely-attended hearings to examine the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform, including extensive testimony from the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Leahy wrote. “I hope these hearings have been useful as you have been developing your legislation.”

While Leahy assured Rubio that the process will be open, he stressed that time is of the essence.

“The Judiciary Committee is capable of swift and thorough action,” Leahy wrote. “As soon as we have comprehensive immigration legislation to review, I will consider scheduling a hearing, in consultation with Senator [Charles E.] Grassley, the Ranking Republican on Committee, and Senator [Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.], the Immigration Subcommittee Chair, to examine that proposal.”

“I am hopeful you recognize, as I do, that if we do not act quickly and decisively we will lose the opportunity we now have to fix our immigration system,” Leahy added.

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