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Leahy Writes Back to Sessions: Do Not Derail Immigration Reform Effort

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leahyLast week we wrote about a letter that six anti-immigrant Senators sent to Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).  The Senators, out to stall and eventually kill immigration reform, complained that the legislative process was moving too quickly and requested more time to hold more hearings, debate the issue, so on, so forth.

According to Roll Call yesterday, Sen. Leahy sent a letter back to the ringleader of the effort, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), calling Sessions out for his brinksmanship in sending the original letter to the press first rather than Leahy, wondering if he was still sore about the way Obamacare was passed, and telling Sessions to not take it out on him for not being included in the Senate Gang of 8.

Shorter Sen. Leahy: I see through you, and you are on public notice.  Do not derail the immigration reform effort.

Here’s what Leahy actually wrote in the letter:

I hope it is not your intention to discredit the process we undertake in the Judiciary Committee before we begin.  As Chairman, I have been fair and protected the rights of all Members of the Committee, Republicans and Democrats, throughout my tenure.  I intend to proceed to comprehensive immigration reform with all deliberate speed.

Leahy taking Sessions to task for making the first letter public before Leahy could receive it:

I understand that you organized a letter to me from some of the Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee. Since it was distributed to the press and you went to the Senate press gallery to talk about it before I received it, I am not sure whether you really meant your ‘open letter’ for me, for the group of Senators meeting with Senator McCain, or just for the press.

You know that I am always available to you if you have a concern and that, as Chairman, I have always treated you and all members of the Committee fairly.   I have gone out of my way to protect the rights of the minority on the Committee despite the treatment Democratic Senators received preceding my chairmanship.

Leahy suggested that Sessions’ problem with immigration had something to do with not being included in the Gang of 8:

I appreciate your frustration as someone excluded from the group that Senator McCain has pulled together to try to develop a bipartisan legislative proposal.  Maybe that is why you copied him on the letter as well as the Senate Republican Leader. That is not a beef you have with me.

Still, Leahy assured Sessions that immigration legislation, when it is introduced, will be considered in committee under regular order and in an open process, and that Sessions would have the opportunity to amend the legislation.  However, he warned Sessions to stop trying to impede reform:

Under the Rules of our Committee, you will have your rights protected to hold over the legislation the first week it is listed on the Committee’s agenda.  After that, you will have the right to circulate and offer amendments…

I hope and expect that you will not delay consideration simply to prevent the legislation from moving forward.  Artificial delays, delays for delays’ sake, has tainted too much of the Senate’s work over the last few years. That obstruction has contributed to the historically low esteem in which Congress is held by the American people.

Leahy also noted that Republicans have criticized Democrats in the past for a lack of transparency, even when they do hold hearings and long markups, such as when Congress considered the health care overhaul:

But, again, it was not lost on me that despite the countless hours of public hearings and marathon sessions of public markups in multiple committees on the Affordable Care Act, that fact did not prevent claims that somehow it was not a transparent process.  You raise that, again, in your recent letter.

Snap, Sen. Leahy.  With all the stunts that Sen. Sessions has pulled recently regarding immigration reform, it’s past time he was rebuked for it.