As the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte plans a slow approach to considering changes in immigration law.
Elected in 1992, Goodlatte has risen through the GOP ranks through careful diligence and adherence to the party line. He once served as district director for former Rep. Manley Caldwell Butler and then practiced law, including immigration law. Democrats who have worked with Goodlatte describe him as intelligent and well-prepared for hearings and meetings.
His real passion appears to be Internet and intellectual copyright issues, including diligent support for a far-reaching anti-piracy bill that tanked in the 112th Congress amid Web-based protests.
When it comes to Obama’s big agenda items, there’s a significant divide in the House between changes to immigration law, which could easily see House action, and gun control legislation, which is pretty much dead on arrival.
Four days after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Goodlatte told CQ Roll Call that “gun control is not going to be something that I would support.” The remarks took a harder line on the issue than the message coming from House leaders at the time, and Goodlatte has since become more disciplined in his remarks on hot-button issues, as many reporters can attest.
Last week, Goodlatte announced that his first hearing will be on immigration. He plans to tackle the issue slowly and methodically.
As a first step, Goodlatte will be co-hosting listening sessions with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman of Judiciary’s immigration subcommittee.
Gowdy described the purpose of the sessions, which will be with groups of 20 or fewer members of Congress, as focusing on current law and research on the causes and solutions of illegal immigration.
Although the Senate has taken the early lead on immigration, there are signs of openness to action in the House.
“I would feel comfortable trying to make the argument in my district that real border security and real employment verification should lead us to a real genuine conversation about legal status,” Gowdy said.
Behind the scenes, a bipartisan group of House members is working to craft its own plan. Although participants are highly secretive — members and aides with knowledge of the group refused to discuss its proceedings — there is little indication Goodlatte has played a big role in their discussions.