As a Senate panel kicked off what could be weeks of meetings to work through a bipartisan overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws Thursday, there were no shortage of interested observers, including Sen. Marco Rubio.
But the Florida Republican had to sit on the sidelines as Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., gaveled in the first meeting to amend a bill that Rubio has staked much of his political capital on. Because he is only a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” who wrote the measure, and not a member of the committee, Rubio found himself watching it on TV.
Still, Rubio told CQ Roll Call in an interview that he was encouraged by the tenor of the meeting and the progress made on the first day of what is likely to be a long slog to the Senate floor.
“I’ve watched some of it on television,” Rubio said. “I’m really excited about Sen. Grassley’s amendment that really improves the bill by requiring that all nine sectors of the border be secured, not just the high-risk sectors.”
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the panel’s ranking member, filed 77 amendments for possible consideration by the committee, though it wasn’t clear how many of the 301 total amendments would be offered.
The gang of eight met as a group Wednesday night, and Judiciary member Charles E. Schumer told reporters those meetings would continue to keep everyone in the loop about amendments that they may find a need to oppose as a group.
“It’s largely just for those of us who are not on the committee to be informed about the amendments that are coming up,” Rubio said.
Rubio also was prepared to counter arguments made by some fellow conservatives opposing the gang’s plan, alluding in the interview to a Grassley proposal that the border be secured before anyone currently undocumented gets provisional status.
“The essence of it would be that all of the security measures would have to happen before we legalize anyone,” Rubio said. “The problem is that the funds that are being used to pay for all of those things are coming from the fines that those who are illegally here are paying in. So, the only way that we’re going to be able to get that money to pay for all of that stuff is to actually start that process.”
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