"Behind Closed Doors" was a Grammy-winning country hit for Charlie Rich in the 1970s, describing a good time where no one could see, but it's a terrible way to write laws, particularly laws as complex and controversial as immigration reform. The nation got its first glimpse Wednesday at the comprehensive immigration-reform bill cobbled together behind closed doors by the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight."
What's worse is, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, has already scheduled two hearings for Friday and Monday on the measure, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. But what's the rush? How many of the 18 members of the Judiciary Committee will have read, much less analyzed, the 844 pages of the legislation before those hearings? Congress learned nothing from the debacle of Obamacare, the 2,000-page monstrosity that Nancy Pelosi insisted that "we have to pass so that you can find out what's in it." Congressional Democrats acted in haste in pushing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, so called, through Congress and the nation has been repenting at leisure ever since.
While the Senate "gang" and its comprehensive measure have drawn all of the media attention, the House Judiciary Committee has also been looking into immigration reform with considerably less fanfare. Unlike in the upper chamber, however, one of the options considered by the chairman of the House panel is to pursue immigration reform in a measured and manageable way; by treating its parts agricultural workers, high-skilled immigration, employment verification, and most importantly, border security as individual, free-standing bills. How does you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
While the House has its own bipartisan "gang" working behind closed doors on a comprehensive immigration-reform measure, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has said that in the coming days several single-issue bills would be introduced in his committee to address aspects of the immigration system he thinks need reform. He added that it's not his intent to thwart or pre-empt the work of the bipartisan House gang. "I am very interested in seeing what these bipartisan groups produce, but we are also going forward with the work we've been doing in committee," the Virginia Republican told National Journal Daily on April 12.
In an op-ed column in late February in The Hill, Mr. Goodlatte wrote: "Congress must not rush to legislate. We need to take the time to learn from the past so that our efforts to reform our immigration laws do not repeat the same mistakes. It's not about a race; it's about getting it right."
Many among the conservative Republican rank and file in the House, however, fear that House Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Whip Eric Cantor will throw in with the House group working toward a comprehensive immigration-reform bill, which could then be sent to conference with whatever comes out of the Senate. Though Mr. Goodlatte has yet to say what specifically he will put forward in his committee, his piece-by-piece approach is eminently sensible (and preferable), and should be embraced by the House Republican leadership.
The Washington Times
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