As the bipartisan Gang of Eight works to complete a comprehensive immigration reform bill, there has been a growing consensus among Senate Republicans that the bill — so far seen by no one outside the Gang — should be the subject of multiple hearings and extended consideration inside the Senate Judiciary Committee. But on Sunday there were signs that consensus does not extend to the Republicans inside the Gang.
Appearing on CBS, longtime immigration reform advocate and Gang member Sen. John McCain suggested the immigration issue is so familiar to lawmakers that multiple hearings will not be necessary. “Some are saying, well, we’re not having enough hearings, we’re not having enough — first of all, we know the issue,” McCain said. “But second of all, the Judiciary Committee will act. There will be amendments. There will be debate. Then it will go to the floor of the Senate. There will be plenty of time for discussion and debate. So, I reject this notion that something is being railroaded through. This is the beginning of the process, not the end of it.”
McCain’s comments echoed those of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, who has promised a process to offer and debate amendments to the bill but has not promised to hold even a single hearing on the far-reaching immigration overhaul. (Leahy has pledged only to “consider scheduling a hearing.”) Like McCain, the Democrat Leahy has said the Senate, which considered and rejected a comprehensive immigration reform proposal in 2006-2007, already knows enough about the issue to act on a new bill without extensive hearings.
For the record, not only do some lawmakers on the Gang pledge that the new bill will be different from the one considered years ago, but 43 members of the Senate — including three members of the Gang itself — were not in the Senate the last time around.
McCain’s statement appears at odds with recent declarations by fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, widely considered to be the key GOP lawmaker in the Gang. “I have been forceful and clear in my position that the Judiciary Committee hold multiple hearings on the topic and be given ample time to consider any immigration proposal,” Rubio wrote Friday in a letter to Republican Judiciary Committee members Charles Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, who have expressed concerns that Leahy is planning to rush the bill through committee. A deliberate process, Rubio added, should also extend to the bill’s consideration before the full Senate: “I believe strongly that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it.”
Neither McCain nor Rubio is actually a member of the Judiciary Committee. But their views as members of the Gang of Eight could affect the amount of consideration given to the bill inside the committee. And if Republicans do not agree on what is necessary, Leahy, with the chairman’s powers, will have even more leeway to do what he wants as quickly as he wants.