McCain wants multiple hearings on immigration bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Arizona Sen. John McCain wants the Senate to hold multiple hearings on the immigration rewrite, McCain’s spokesman said Thursday.

“Obviously he supports holding multiple public hearings,” Brian Rogers, McCain’s communications director told The Daily Caller.

“He’s rejected the notion that this legislation is somehow being rammed through without debate — it’s just not true,” Rogers added.

However, Rogers declined to say how many hearings McCain wants to be held.

“He hasn’t put a number on it but wants a vigorous debate on all of these issues,” Rogers said, before shifting the subject to the scheduled arguments and votes on the Democratic-majority Judiciary Committee.

“The timeline laid out by the Judiciary Committee makes clear that there will be many weeks of debate on this and ample opportunity for amendments,” he said.

The statement by McCain’s office come two days after Sen. Lindsey Graham, the leading GOP advocate for the legalization and guest-worker program, told Sean Hannity that one hearing would be held, and the bill could be debated and passed through the Senate’s Judiciary Committee in days.

“The process is that we’re going to have a hearing — we had one in 2006 when we did this on [George W.] Bush’s watch,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told radio host Sean Hannity April 9.

After the single hearing, he told Hannity, “we’re going to have a committee markup in Judiciary where we’re going to have the bill for days, if not weeks, so people who dislike can vote against it.”

McCain’s office also said the huge bill could be debated in committee meetings where the senators vote to accept or approve various amendments to the draft bill.

McCain “always said we need an open process that goes through regular order in the Judiciary Committee, with plenty of time for debate and consideration, ample opportunities for amendments, and obviously he supports holding multiple public hearings,” Rogers told TheDC.

The 1,500-page bill is being handled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

So far, Leahy has indicated that he will hold a single hearing to review the bill, which is expected to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws, allow companies to bring in 1 million blue-collar and white-collar workers per year and provide conditional legalization to 11 million illegal immigrants.

So far, Democrats have scheduled only one hearing. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano is slated to testify April 17.

McCain’s public support for additional hearings is an possible breach with Graham, who has repeatedly urged legislators to push the bill through Congress rapidly.

In the last few weeks, McCain has repeatedly echoed Graham’s call for a rapid process.

On April 9, for example, Politico reported that McCain said that “now is the time to get it done as quickly as possible.”

“Some are saying, wow, we’re not having enough hearings … [but] first of all, we know the issue,” McCain said during an April 7 interview on “Face The Nation.”

“But second of all, the Judiciary Committee will act. There will be amendments. There will be debate. Then it will go to the floor of the Senate. There will be plenty of time for discussion and debate so I reject this notion that something is being railroaded through,” he said, without calling for additional hearings.

McCain’s call for additional hearings is a shift toward Rubio, whose departure from the Gang of Eight could cripple the bill’s chances.

“There’s no daylight between Senators McCain and Rubio on this,” Rogers said.

Rubio is facing his own political dilemmas.

He is widely seen as preparing for a 2016 presidential election race, and has sought to allay conservatives’ worries about the still-secret bill by saying it will be extensively debated.

In January, Rubio told radio host Rush Limbaugh that “there’s gonna be public hearings” once the group published the secretly written bill.

“I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it,” he insisted to Limbaugh.

On April 5, Rubio’s spokesman, Alex Conant, told The Daily Caller that “we’re asking for several hearings in multiple committees.”

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