Whatever his motivation, the perpetually partisan Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) threatened last week to derail the entire immigration-reform process by threatening to ram an immigration bill through the Judiciary Committee. The contents of the bill under discussion are largely unknown beyond the “Gang of Eight” that is crafting it, but in an intentionally provocative letter to committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Leahy wrote: “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.”
Sessions objected, understandably, on the grounds that “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.” (President Obama has been equally dismissive of the need to full deliberation, urging quick action.)
Now Sessions has opposed comprehensive immigration reform, but he is right on the process. If the bill is a good compromise, why slam it through to a vote, like Obamacare, with no hearings on the specifics?
The chief proponent of immigration on the GOP side, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), spotted the disaster awaiting the plan if senators began to feel this was being rammed down their throats. In a letter to Leahy on Saturday, Rubio argued that the legislative process “must begin with a careful examination in the Committee including: hearings that explore multiple perspectives on the scope of the problems we face and the efficacy of the solutions we propose, markups in which a broad range of amendments can be considered, and a robust floor debate.”
In calling for all the committee deliberations to “occur in the full view of the American people, broadcast on CSPAN, and streamed live on the internet,” Rubio is trying to slow down the train and calm the objections of those skeptical of the bill. He’s right. We learned with Obamacare how riddled with flaws a bill can be if nor properly vetted, discussed and analyzed.
Rubio concluded, “You have said that ‘delay for delay’s sake’ would be a mistake in this matter, I agree. But excessive haste in the pursuit of a lasting solution is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share. We owe it to the American people to get immigration reform right this time, so that future Congresses and future generations do not face the broken system we see today. 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.”
Those of us who have watched Democrats demagogue immigration reform for years wonder whether the rush to a vote is designed either to conceal massive flaws or to provoke a backlash and doom progress on the bill. Many Democrats would love nothing better than to keep immigration alive as an issue, to continue to blame Republicans for the failure to pass comprehensive reform.
Republican senators who are pushing for immigration reform, including Lindsay Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), should take no part in an effort to jam their colleagues. Rubio is right on the politics and the process; should McCain and Graham side with Leahy (they often seem more enamored of boosting Democrats than assuaging Republicans), it would be a grave error. Their credibility is low with conservatives on a variety of fronts; they shouldn’t aggravate their own problems or nail shut a window of opportunity to get immigration reform right.