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Hatch Wants to Be Wooed on Immigration

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Hatch said he could be persuaded to vote for the immigration bill authored by the Senate “gang of eight,” but only if some of the 24 amendments he has offered are adopted.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch wants to vote for comprehensive immigration legislation, but he has a few conditions first.

The Utah Republican’s vote “can be won if they’ll pay attention to what I am doing,” Hatch told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday.

Hatch could be a bellwether for winning GOP support on the Senate floor, according to immigration overhaul supporters.

Getting Hatch’s vote for passage of the bill could be invaluable, said Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the bipartisan “gang of eight” members who authored the bill currently under review by the Judiciary Committee.

“I think it would be critical to getting him on board,” the Florida Republican said. “I think he is someone that people around here trust and admire tremendously and I think it would be a huge asset. I think it would be one of the biggest steps forward toward passage that we can achieve.”

The Judiciary Committee, on which Hatch sits, has been marking up the immigration bill since last week; it will continue the debate on amendments Thursday.

Hatch has offered a package of 24 amendments to the bill, and he wants to see some of them adopted before he will lend his support to the measure. But a few of Hatch’s proposals are within the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee, and that may make it difficult for Democrats to compromise with him.

“Frankly, there is a desire by some of the Democrats to work with me,” Hatch said.

“If they listened to me I think they could get this done,” he continued, but added, “I have to say there are other amendments that I’ve just plain got to get.

“The four Finance Committee amendments, we have to take those,” Hatch said, even though that could set up a jurisdictional dispute between the two panels. Hatch is ranking member of the Finance Committee.

Still, Democrats may seek to sidestep the turf war by having Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., rule that issues within the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction are not germane, which would push those debates to the Senate floor.

There is a history of the panels keeping off each other’s turf. During debate on the health care overhaul, the Finance Committee deferred to the Judiciary Committee on medical-malpractice issues.

Hatch said if Leahy decides to rule the Finance Committee amendments nongermane, his support in committee would hinge on a commitment that the amendments would eventually be added on the floor. That proposal, however, may be a tall order for Democrats to fill.

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