Sen. Jeff Sessions said he remains concerned that Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy will not allow enough debate time on legislation overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
Responding to a letter from the Vermont Democrat, Sessions said, “Chairman Leahy effectively informed Committee members that he has every intention of moving on a rushed timetable that would make it impossible for lawmakers or the public to properly assess a bill of this magnitude.”
Leahy’s March 21 letter to Sessions warned the Alabama Republican against undermining the panel’s process regarding immigration. It also stated that Leahy intends to take up an immigration measure as soon as possible. A bipartisan group of eight senators is working on legislation the committee will consider. The group hopes to unveil its bill the week of April 8.
Leahy also said he intends to follow regular order, have a transparent process and provide enough debate time and ample opportunities to offer amendments.
But Sessions believes the letter confirms his concerns that Leahy intends to jam the legislation through the committee, and his response is just the latest in the back-and-forth between the two senators. Leahy’s letter came in response to a March 19 letter sent to him by Sessions and five other Judiciary Committee Republicans.
“Specifically, it seems the Chairman is arguing we can put a bill on the floor two weeks after the Gang of Eight potentially produces legislation in early April,” Sessions said in his release Wednesday. “The Chairman’s suggestion that we don’t need hearings on this new proposal because we have held immigration hearings in the past misses the entire point: the massive proposal being cobbled together by a group of Senators in secret must be independently judged and reviewed by the Judiciary Committee in the full light of day. That will take months — not two weeks — and will require hearings on every aspect of this issue: protecting American workers and wages, protecting our public benefit programs and ensuring enforcement of the public charge law, evaluating the size, scope, and impact of any guest worker program, tracking visa overstays, etc.”
Sessions continued, “No member of Congress who believes in democratic procedure can acquiesce to the ramming through of a thousand-page bill that will dramatically and directly impact the taxes, wages, and security of our constituents.”
In his letter, Leahy questioned the seriousness of Sessions’ concerns, citing the possibility that the Alabaman might be looking for fault in the process as a way to delay consideration or defeat the bill. Sessions has said he would prefer taking on the issue in a piecemeal way.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.