President Obama believes that the expected bipartisan immigration reform proposal should not receive extended scrutiny by lawmakers in committee, according to his spokesman, who said that immigration debates in past year should suffice.
“[A]s veterans of the Senate know, this issue has been under consideration at very serious levels periodically for a long time now,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during the gaggle today. “There is a great need to act on comprehensive immigration reform and a great opportunity to do it now, as the President has made clear. It has been in the past, and seems to be now, a bipartisan priority. And that is as it should be, in the President’s view.”
Carney was rejecting Rubio’s call for “regular order,” which would entail multiple hearings on the bill and provide senators with greater latitude to offer amendments to the bill.
“I think the characterization of regular order here has to be understood within the context of the fact that this legislation in essence has been on the table and subject to debate in the United States Congress for many years now,” he said. “The basic outlines of what has been under consideration and is being worked on by the Gang of Eight and has been proposed by the President reflects legislation that was considered in Congress, in 2006, 2007, I believe.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., made the same argument to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., adding that he’d be happy to get junior senators up to speed on old debates.
Rubio criticized that approach. “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 to Leahy last week.
Leahy replied with a very small concession yesterday. “The Judiciary Committee is capable of swift and thorough action,” he wrote. “As soon as we have comprehensive immigration legislation to review, I will consider scheduling a hearing, in consultation with Senator Grassley, the Ranking Republican on Committee, and Senator Schumer, the Immigration Subcommittee Chair, to examine that proposal.”
That’s a far cry from the elaborate committee process that Sessions and the other Republicans initially suggested was necessary to review the effect of the immigration bill on issues such as border security, the economic ramifications of legalizing so many low-skill workers, and the question of welfare benefits for the new citizens.
“Chairman Leahy’s mention of the possibility of maybe holding a single hearing is not a pledge of openness, but a confirmation of our suspicions,” Sessions said in a statement on Leahy’s letter to Rubio. “A sound committee process will take months—not the two-week timeframe Chairman Leahy has outlined—and will require extensive hearings to understand every major component of reform,” he added.