ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration would support an accelerated process in the Senate to vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill if a bipartisan proposal is offered this month as expected.
Carney was reacting to reports that Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has said he wants to speed up the amendment process, known as markup, for a bill being drafted by an eight-member group that is expected to include a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.
“We’ll leave it to the chairman and other leaders in the Senate to decide on the process, but the president has made clear that he believes there is no reason to delay this process, no reason to postpone it,” Carney said en route to Denver, where Obama was schedule to deliver remarks on efforts to curb gun violence.
Obama is “encouraged about the process so far and hopes it will continue. And he hopes it will result in a bill and consideration of a bill and that we vote on it,” Carney said.
The working group has said it hopes to unveil the legislation next week, after the Senate returns from Easter break.
Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan working group, have balked at Leahy’s push for an accelerated timetable. Rubio, who has cautioned in recent days that the bipartisan group has not yet agreed to the full framework of legislation, sent a letter to Leahy calling for more hearings and “regular order” for the markup in the committee. Rubio said the bill deserves a full hearing and chances for colleagues to offer amendments before it is potentially moved out of committee to the Senate floor.
Leahy has noted he already has held a hearing on immigration reform, and he and other Democrats have argued that the basic tenants of a comprehensive bill have been discussed for the past six years since a similar effort failed in the Senate in 2007.
Advocates for reform fear that a slow process could allow critics to marshal opposition, while opponents say they an accelerated timetable could force approval of a bill that has not been fully litigated.
“This issue has been under consideration at very serious levels periodically for a long time now,” Carney said. “There is a great need to act on comprehensive immigration reform and a great opportunity to do it now, as the president’s made clear. There has been in the past and seems to be now a bipartisan priority and that’s how it should be in the president’s point of view. … He looks forward to further progress by the Senate and action.”