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'Gang of 8' Immigration Bill Set to Drop

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Some Judiciary Committee Republicans are pushing Leahy, right, to hold more hearings on immigration before moving legislation through the committee.

But it’s unclear when the markup would be, given that six of the committee’s eight Republicans have requested a new round of hearings that could delay the bill from getting to the floor before the end of the summer. The other two GOP members of the committee — Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — are members of the gang of eight.

Part of the problem, some Republicans contend, is that the bill is being drafted behind closed doors and they want to make sure they understand what’s in the package before the committee takes it up.

To that end, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R- Iowa, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and three other committee Republicans on April 4 asked the four Republican members of the gang of eight to make their staffs available to GOP committee staff by no later that Monday evening.

“The time for transparency has come,” Grassley said in the letter.

“Given the Majority’s rushed time table, we believe it is time for you to discuss the status of your negotiations, disclose what concessions have been made and provide details to members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Republican Caucus,” the letter said.

Leahy has also raised concerns about the bill being drafted behind the scenes. And he has wondered out loud whether the Republicans’ desire for more hearings and concern for minority rights is a surreptitious effort to try to defeat the bill.

Nevertheless, the Vermont Democrat has also sought to assure Republicans that he wants an open and transparent process and intends to allow for ample debate time, in part to ensure the process does not become an excuse for opposition to the measure.

One signatory of the April 4 letter, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has been critical of Leahy and believes he plans to try to ram the bill through the committee.

In the letter, the four Republicans ask the immigration group to help ensure that their minority rights are preserved as the Senate considers the package.

The senators said in the letter that they “hope you will pledge your commitment to protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate by demanding a full, orderly and open debate process during Committee consideration and when the bill is sent to the full Senate.”

The senators also said they have concerns that Leahy has indicated he may hold only one more hearing, given that more than 40 immigration hearings have been held by the panel over the past four Congresses. The four senators would like what they say would be a more thorough process hearing from a wide variety of experts.

“Going forward, we expect to hear from experts on each of the proposals [within the bill] being put forth, including but not limited to a new temporary workers program, border security, interior and worksite enforcement, and the impact of a large-scale legalization on American workers and taxpayers,” the letter said. “We hope you will stand with us to ensure that all viewpoints are heard before the committee considers any immigration legislation.”

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