Immigration overhaul legislation is in for a tough battle against Republican opponents, who say they plan to try to slow down the legislation through offering hundreds of amendments and putting other obstacles in its way.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which begins its review on the legislation Thursday, is expected to take at least three weeks working on the plan submitted by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators, reports The New York Times
. During that time, Republican opponents are expected to offer proposals that will lengthen the timeline for a pathway to citizenship and to work against a deal for a guest worker program.
"They’ll be looking to throw obstacles in the way of the process and propose poison pills in order to frame the debate for the far right,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration group America's Voice. "What they’re really doing is playing towards conservatives, trying to make Marco Rubio and other Republicans uncomfortable, and mobilizing grass-roots opposition.”
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said he plans to offer numerous amendments to draw out the discussions.
"The longer this legislation is available for public review, the worse it’s going to be perceived," Sessions said. “The longer it lays out there, the worse it’s going to smell. The tide is going to turn.”
The cost of the legislation will also likely come into play. Earlier this week, the Heritage Foundation released a report that said the pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States could cost taxpayers at least $6.3 trillion. The report is similar to another on that killed immigration overhaul efforts in 2007.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan group of senators who crafted the bill, said he plans to work with colleagues to further shape it. Rubio has come under fire from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for his high-profile, pro-immigration opinions.
"We’re working with other senators on the Judiciary Committee to improve the border security triggers, limit the discretionary power given to the administration and address concerns to make sure that today’s illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal benefits," said Rubio, noting if the bill isn't improved, it won't be approved.
While Rubio does not sit on the Judiciary Committee, others of the "Gang of Eight" are involved, including Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, along with Democrats Richard Durbin, Illinois, and Charles Schumer, New York, and the group's members have agreed to vote down amendments that go against the original bill.
But even pro-immigration proponents believe some of the Republican-backed amendments will be approved to help get a bill through that will meet with broad support in the Senate and that can help push it through the GOP-controlled House.
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