POLITICS

Top Democrat tells Republicans he’ll rush immigration bill through Congress

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., indicated that he will expedite immigration reform by skipping by further committee hearings on the legislation in a sharp letter to a leading Republican lawmaker — a letter characterized by a striking amount of trash-talking about immigration issues and politics.

“I intend to proceed to comprehensive immigration reform with all deliberate speed,” Leahy wrote to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in a letter today informing Sessions that Republicans will 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.”

Leahy also said that past Congresses investigated the immigration issue enough that they don’t need to hold further hearings on this particular legislation.

“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,” he said.

Sessions rejected such a schedule. “The Chairman’s suggestion that we don’t need hearings on this new proposal because we have held immigration hearings in the past misses the entire point: the massive proposal being cobbled together by a group of Senators in secret must be independently judged and reviewed by the Judiciary Committee in the full light of day,” he stated in response to Leahy’s letter, a process that would take months, in his estimation.

“No member of Congress who believes in democratic procedure can acquiesce to the ramming through of a thousand-page bill that will dramatically and directly impact the taxes, wages, and security of our constituents,” Sessions added.

Leahy dispensed with some of the decorum characteristic of the Senate in addressing the letter to “Jeff,” even though he was responding to a letter sent by six lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., who serves as Leahy’s counterpart on the Judiciary Committee.

“I understand your frustration as someone excluded from the group that Senator McCain has pulled together to try to develop a bipartisan proposal,” the Democratic chairman said. “That is not a beef you have with me.”

Leahy then cited the Republican National Committee “autopsy” supporting comprehensive immigration reform as evidence that Sessions needs to come around on the issue.

“I am encouraged that after two resounding electoral defeats, some Republican politicians are concerned enough about the growing Hispanic voting population that they are abandoning their former demagoguery and coming to the table,” he said.

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