The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday pushed back a hearing on immigration until later this week and added another one for early next week, bowing to Republican requests.
The hearing originally set for Wednesday will now take place on Friday and the committee will hear from more witnesses on Monday, April 22, according to Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.
Leahy had earlier said that he would only hold a single hearing on the yet-to-be-released immigration bill, a decision that angered Republicans who have called for more opportunities to study the legislation.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the bipartisan group of eight senators drafting the legislation behind closed doors, called Leahy’s decision to add another hearing “an encouraging development.”
“As we go forward in this immigration debate, we need more openness and transparency that I firmly believe will only help improve this bill and earn the public’s confidence,” Rubio said. “I am pleased that Chairman Leahy is also postponing this week’s immigration hearing to Friday, which provides additional time for senators and the American people to review the immigration bill being introduced this week.”
Another group member, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that the bill is ready to be rolled out on Tuesday.
“Every significant disagreement among the eight of us is resolved,” Schumer said. “We expect the eight of us will introduce a bill on Tuesday.”
It remains to be seen whether that deadline will still be met. A Rubio spokesman tweeted Monday: “Lots of concern there wouldn’t be enough time to read bill before Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing, so hearing’s been moved to Friday.”
Asked last week about his hearing’s timing, Leahy said he was confident that the language of the bill would be public by then.
“If we do [have the bill], we’re going to have the hearing,” he said. “If we don’t, we can always adjust.”
Leahy has said he intends to mark up the bill in early May. He suggested Monday that he is still eager to move on the legislation.
“I look forward to reviewing the bill, holding prompt hearings on the legislation and proceeding to debating and marking up legislation on this important issue,” he said in a statement.
The Senate group has blown several deadlines as it puts the finishing touches on a massive bill designed to overhaul the country’s immigration laws.
Rubio, who blitzed the Sunday talk shows, said the legislation would give provisional legal status to those living in the country illegally, allowing them to stay and work in the country for up to 10 years. During that time, they will be expected to submit to background checks and pay fines and back taxes.
Simultaneously, the administration will have to ensure that border security is beefed up, put in place a strong workplace verification system and improve the process for determining whether people overstay their visas.
Once all those conditions are met, undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for green cards, Rubio said.
The bill’s delay and the secrecy surrounding its drafting has sparked outrage from conservatives, who say that the Senate Democratic majority plans to make it impossible for lawmakers to fully digest the bill and propose amendments.