A vignette from yesterday’s kabuki Judiciary Committee hearing, preserved for posterity by Byron York because he knows the potential for amnesty-defeating conservative outrage in watching Chuck Schumer pull Republicans’ strings on immigration reform.

In case you’ve lost track during Scandalmania, the committee is still debating, i.e. summarily voting down, amendments to the Gang of Eight bill. Yesterday Jeff Sessions proposed one that would have blocked illegals who’ve been given probationary legal status under the proposed law from receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit. That presented a dilemma for the committee’s Gang of Eight members, Schumer, Durbin, Graham, and Flake. They’ve been voting together as a bloc to kill amendments from the left and (mostly) from the right in the interest of preserving the bill’s “delicate bipartisan compromise.” If Sessions’s amendment passed, liberals might have walked away and the whole deal would have collapsed. The Gang would much rather see a crappy bill like its own pass than see the bill improved via amendment at the price of a diminished risk of passage, so Sessions’s proposal simply had to be defeated. The problem in this particular case was that Graham is up for reelection next year and will have enough headaches spinning his amnesty support without also having to defend a vote against barring illegals from receiving tax credits. So Schumer did him and Flake a little kabuki favor: Knowing full well that Sessions’s amendment was going down in flames anyway since Democrats control the committee, he magnanimously agreed to let Graham and Flake cast meaningless votes in favor of it. Turn up the volume on your computer and listen closely at 3:10 below; you’ll hear him clearly say, “Do our Republicans have a pass on this one, if they want? Yes.” (Our Republicans.) The amendment dies, but Graham gets to go back to South Carolina and announce that he’s a stalwart opponent of benefits of for newly legalized illegals. And then he’ll turn right around and head back to D.C. to twist arms in favor of the bill, despite the EITC provisions in it. It’s a total sham.

The next phase of the sham will begin soon, as the Judiciary Committee wraps up and sends the bill to the floor — under cover of Scandalmania — for a possible quick Senate vote. That’s why you’re seeing prominent conservatives, including the boss emeritus, issuing their open letter to kill the bill today: There isn’t much time left in the Senate to stop it. And it might not be just Graham and Flake on the GOP side who end up voting the bill out of committee; Democrats are also working hard to woo Orrin Hatch to vote with them in order to send it to the floor with bipartisan support beyond the Gang itself. Just as I’m writing this, news is breaking that Hatch and Schumer have reached a deal on visas for high-skilled immigrants, which should lock up his support. Now he’s one of “their Republicans” too.