Sen. Marco Rubio, considered the key Republican on the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration working group in the Senate, has famously called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold “multiple” hearings on the new comprehensive immigration reform bill, once it is finally finished and made public. The bill will be long and complex and will make far-reaching changes in important public policy areas, Rubio has said, and therefore it deserves to be given extensive consideration by the Senate.
But committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who wants to push the bill to the Senate floor as quickly as possible, has said no, he will allow only one hearing. So what to do?
The answer is, try somewhere else. Rubio is hoping to convince other Senate committee chairmen — all Democrats, of course — to hold hearings on the bill. It’s not clear if he’ll have any luck. So Rubio is also discussing the possibility that the Republican Policy Committee, a GOP group headed by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, might hold hearings of its own.
Of course, any Republican Policy Committee hearings would be more accurately described as “hearings,” since they would be a partisan exercise and not the work of an actual Senate committee. In that sense, GOP “hearings” on immigration might be similar to sessions Democrats held during the Iraq War, when they wanted to examine the Bush administration’s handling of the war but did not control either House or Senate and could not force any regular committees to do anything.
So far, it’s not a done deal. “Sen. Rubio brought the idea to Sen. Barrasso in light of Chairman Leahy’s apparent refusal to allow thorough public debate and much-needed transparency,” says Emily Lawrimore, a spokeswoman for Barrasso. “Using the Republican Policy Committee to hear from all sides is a decision for the entire Senate Republican conference. The conference is looking forward to hearing from Sen. Rubio and the other members who have been negotiating immigration reform soon.”