Initially it sounded like Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was prepared to put the brakes on, but his last letter to Jeff Sessions suggested otherwise. We’ve already had hearings on immigration over the years, he said. Granted, not on this particular bill, which might, in substantial part, actually end up being enacted and setting U.S. immigration policy for decades to come. But still. You wanted a debate on this issue and you kinda sorta got it. Years ago. Piecemeal. In the context of different legislation. What more do you want?
Byron York says Senate Republican aides are getting nervous.
Leahy suggested the Judiciary Committee has already done enough talking about immigration reform. There were lots of hearings on the subject back in 2006, he said, and a few in the past couple of months. Although there is no bill to evaluate yet — “I regret that we do not have a legislative proposal before us,” Leahy said — the chairman strongly suggested he sees little need for further discussion.
So when the Gang of Eight bill is finished, Leahy declared, it will be considered “with all deliberate speed.” After it is introduced in committee, Republicans will be allowed to delay consideration by one week (a standard prerogative of the minority party). After that, there will be no more hearings, no extended discussion of the bill’s provisions. Voting on amendments and then a final committee vote will soon follow…
Leahy’s timetable left Republicans slack-jawed. Said one GOP aide: “The suggestion that you are going to create a new guest worker program, new border security protocols, new interior enforcement protocols, change worksite rules, future flow of immigrants, family migration, every category of visas, high-skill workers, low-skill workers, an entry system, an exit system, a tracking system, and on top of that consider the complex legal and economic concerns relating to legalizing an untold number of people who are currently here illegally ?– the idea that you’re going to do that in a couple of weeks is –” At that point, the aide stopped, unable to come up with a word to describe such an undertaking.
Why might a Republican senator agree to help Democrats fast-track the bill by voting for cloture? Because: If you want this thing to pass, the fast track might be the only way. If you set aside three months for hearings, that’s three months for grassroots conservatives to mobilize, three months for a deal between big business and big labor on guest workers to fall apart, three months for amnesty advocates to overreach with their demands and send centrist Republicans fleeing, etc. If you do it quickly, the way Lindsey Graham and other hardcore comprehensive reform shills want, you put the ball in Boehner’s court with some legislative momentum behind passage and then maybe it gets a little harder for House Republicans who are on the fence to say no. After all, there’s heavy pressure from party leadership to do this soon and impress Latinos before the midterms. Are the 40-50 squishier members of the caucus really going to say no? The specter of Democratic demagoguery will hover over any Republican attempt to slow this down, just as it hovers over everything else immigration-related. Even if the GOP signals support for the bill and asks only for a delay of a few months to fine-tune the provisions, Schumer et al. will be merciless in arguing to Latinos that this is actually a Republican attempt to kill immigration reform again. For that reason alone, the fast-track process is likely to be more viable among the GOP than you’d expect.
For what it’s worth (i.e. nothing), and notwithstanding my status as a card-carrying RINO, I won’t vote for/support any GOP pol who rubber-stamps this thing, Democratic demagoguery or not. I could conceivably support someone who votes for the bill after due deliberation, although obviously that’ll depend on what sort of border enforcement we get. But as a purely procedural matter, if they try to sneak something this momentous through without fully vetting it, that’s a dealbreaker.