Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., denied Tuesday that the Senate is rushing the immigration bill in a manner similar to the process used to pass Obamacare, countering criticism from Republican colleagues.
“The health care bill we started debating before it was introduced; that’s not happening here," Schumer said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill. “To have a robust committee process is in our interest.”
Obamacare was debated for several months — the Kennedy bill was released in June 2009 and the final version passed in March 2010 — whereas Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has stated his desire to pass the bill in a few weeks or less.
“I intend to proceed to comprehensive immigration reform with all deliberate speed,” Leahy wrote to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in a March letter informing him that Republicans would only have one week to consider the immigration bill — two, if Republicans use procedural means to slow it. “Under the Rules of our Committee, you will have your rights protected to hold over the legislation the first week that it is listed on the Committee’s agenda. After that, you will have the right to circulate and offer amendments.”
In that letter, Leahy resisted having any committee process. He told Sessions that he would not schedule any hearings on the bill because past Congresses had devoted enough attention to the topic.
“If any of the more junior Senators need time to get up to speed, I will look forward to them discussing their specific readiness problems with me directly and I will look forward to working with them as well,” Leahy wrote.
That letter prompted criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Gang of Eight. “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.
Under pressure, Leahy agreed to schedule one hearing (eventually, he added a second), but that didn’t satisfy some of his GOP critics, given that the bill wasn’t released until last Wednesday night but the hearing was scheduled for Friday. (The hearing was postponed to Monday in light of the Boston Marathon bombing.)
“A single hearing scheduled so quickly to discuss legislative language that is not yet even available is completely inadequate for Senators or the American people to get answers to the many questions a bill of this magnitude will inevitably raise,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said last week when the schedule was announced.