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For Sen. Mike Lee, amending immigration bill starts with throwing it out

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Photo - WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  An immigration activist holds up a sign on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during an All In for Citizenship rally April 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of reform supporters gathered for the rally to call on Congress to act on proposals that would grant a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million of the nation's illegal immigrants.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: An immigration activist holds up a sign on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during an All In for Citizenship rally April 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of reform supporters gathered for the rally to call on Congress to act on proposals that would grant a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million of the nation's illegal immigrants. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. was the deadline for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to propose amendments to the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill. There were a lot of amendments. Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the committee, proposed 77. Fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, perhaps the leading opponent of the bill on the committee, proposed 49. Sen. Orrin Hatch proposed 24. Sen. Mike Lee proposed 23. Altogether, Republicans proposed 194 amendments, while Democrats proposed 106, for a total of 300.

Reading all the amendments will take some time, but so far the most striking appear to come from Sen. Lee, who had once considered joining the group that became the Gang of Eight.  Each of Lee’s first three amendments would throw out the Gang’s bill completely and replace it with a relatively simple measure to cover key parts of the immigration issue.  Lee’s first amendment would be called the “Border Security Results Act of 2013.” His second would be called the “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act.” The third would be called the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2013.”

Each amendment begins, referring to the original Gang of Eight bill, with these words: “Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following…”  In a stroke, 867 pages of proposed legislation would be thrown out.

The “Border Security Results Act of 2013″ would require the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a plan to secure the border, submit it to Congress, and have it fully implemented within two years. The entire bill is 12 pages long.

The “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act” would require the E-verify system to be up and running across the country in one year.  The amendment is 21 pages long.

The third amendment would re-invent the system of H-1B visas for skilled immigrants.  It, too, is 21 pages long.

Lee’s design is obviously to take the “comprehensive” out of immigration reform and instead pass bills to address specific problems.  “Achieving comprehensive reform doesn’t have to mean passing one, single comprehensive bill,” Lee said in a statement.  “I think the only way to guarantee successful reform of the entire system is through a series of incremental reforms that ensure the foundational pieces — like border security and an effective entry/exit system — are done properly.  That’s what these amendments are designed to do.”

It’s safe to say that Lee’s throw-the-bill-out amendments have no chance of passing the committee, which is made up of ten Democrats and eight Republicans — and two of the Republicans are members of the Gang of Eight.  But they will cheer those in the GOP who believe the only way to handle the immigration issue is by starting over entirely.

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner