GOP senators to Dems on immigration: Slow down

GOP senators to Dems on immigration: Slow down
GOP senators to Dems on immigration: Slow down

There’s reason for some cautious optimism about the fate of comprehensive immigration reform this year. The idea is increasingly popular in the Senate, and appears to have more than enough support to overcome a predictable Republican filibuster. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appears to be on board with the package that’s coming together.

It’s pushing opponents and skeptics to come up with creative new complaints.

The effort to reform the nation’s broken immigration system is moving much too fast, at least according to six of eight Republican members serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with finding a comprehensive solution.

“Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act was first introduced in the Senate in 1982, the Committee had 100 hours of hearings with 300 witnesses before marking up a bill,” the senators write in a Tuesday letter to chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “Congress continued to debate the bill for the next three years, and even then, the Judiciary Committee spent three months reviewing the bill before it was reported in August of 1985. Accordingly, we respectfully request that the public be given adequate time, consistent with past practice in handling complex comprehensive immigration legislation, to read and analyze the contents of any such bill before it is listed on the Committee’s Executive Business Meeting agenda.”

Yes, for Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, the Judiciary Committee shouldn’t even prepare for a debate just yet. Those reform proponents, the argument goes, are just moving too darn quickly.

Let’s note a few details in the hopes of providing some context to the debate. The Bush/Cheney White House pushed for a very similar comprehensive immigration reform proposal six years ago, and after an extensive review process, it nearly passed. It was also a major topic of national discussion in the last two presidential campaigns, and President Obama unveiled a plan that’s very similar to the one currently cooking on Capitol Hill three years ago.

During that time, a bipartisan consensus has emerged, and polls show broad support for the basic principles included in the comprehensive plan.

So why is it, exactly, that policymakers should slow things down? Is a six-year debate too short? Are these Republican senators prepared to argue that Congress is just too busy getting things done in so many other policy areas that that lawmakers couldn’t possibly squeeze this into their schedule?