By Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) & Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
September 22, 2013
The Gang of Eight immigration bill is a 1,200-page legislative monstrosity. Senators had roughly 72 hours to read the final version of this massive and complex bill before the votes began. Like with Obamacare, the Senate was supposed to pass the bill in order to find out what was in it.
But while lawmakers and the public were left in the dark, the White House strategists and special interest allies who crafted the bill knew exactly what it contained: immediate amnesty, weakened enforcement, and unending illegal immigration.
The House has said that it will not take up the Senate bill. Rather, it will consider immigration reform in a “step-by-step” process, one bill at a time. We share the belief that the way to address immigration policy changes is through step-by-step legislation, with individual reform measures first implemented and then verified in the proper sequence.
We are concerned, however, that the House will pass individual, incremental bills only to have them cobbled together in a backroom deal with Majority Leader Reid and the Gang of Eight. Through a series of procedural maneuvers, House leaders could agree to begin negotiations with the Senate, known as a conference, using one of these smaller, targeted bills, while the Senate could bring the Gang of Eight bill to the negotiations.
This scenario would open the back door for congressional leaders to create a new amnesty-first, enforcement-later “comprehensive” immigration bill. Once the conference approves the new bill and sends it back to each chamber, amendments are prohibited and only an up-or-down vote is allowed.
Another danger is that, after the House passes several smaller bills, congressional leaders could handpick negotiators to meet in secret and develop a “compromise” plan to “fix” the Senate bill and bring the new—even larger—comprehensive proposal to a vote in both chambers.
If House members allow any of their proposals to be combined into an omnibus immigration bill, they would, in effect, allow White House strategists and their special interest allies to determine the final outcome of immigration much the way they shaped the creation of the original Gang of Eight bill. They would be handing the reins over to the very people who have made it their mission to suspend the constitutional rule of law in matters of immigration enforcement.
House leaders, therefore, should make absolutely clear that any individual immigration bills must be considered separately by the Senate, not crammed together into a behemoth comprehensive proposal. It’s not step-by-step if the bills are merged with the Senate monstrosity at a later date—either through a formal conference or a closed-door negotiation. Any possibility of such an outcome must be ruled out. How can House leaders ask a single member of Congress to vote for step-by-step bills if they’re leaving the back door wide open to a comprehensive bill?
There must be no confusion. No word play. Step-by-step must mean just that: individual steps, not an all-in-one legislative colossus.
As we’ve seen with spending bills, an enormous amount of mischief can be accomplished by rushing through a package of different proposals in the form of one catch-all bill. It deprives lawmakers the opportunity to review and modify each element, and it deprives the public a chance to weigh in.
The devil, the saying goes, is in the details. And there are a lot of details in several thousand pages of legislation.