Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions charged in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Friday that the “Gang of Eight” Senate immigration bill was crafted by special interests.
“We did have a markup in the Judiciary Committee, we were allowed to offer amendments and had some debate there but it was an odd thing — repeatedly members, not even in the ‘gang of eight’ would say ‘I like this amendment but I can’t vote for it because I understand it upsets the deal,'” the Alabama senator said. “So we need to ask ourselves who made the deal?”
According to Sessions — who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Senate immigration reform bill — the dealmakers were special interests like “big labor” and “big business.”
“I contend, I think it’s quite plain, it was because it was not written by independent members of the Senate in a more open process but was written by special interests,” he said.
“Powerful groups met, excluding the interests of the American people, excluding the law enforcement community,” Sessions added. “Throughout the bill you can see the influence that these groups had on the drafting of it. Some of the groups actually did the drafting, a lot of the language clearly came from the special interest groups that were engaged in these secret negotiations.”
Sessions further pointed to the idea that foreign countries were also involved in the process, highlighting an article in The Hill about ambassadors to the U.S. lobbying lawmakers on immigration reform.
“And we know that one group that was not included in these talks and that is the group that is given the duty to enforce the laws involved in immigration: the National ICE Union, the Customs and Enforcement organization pleaded with the Gang of Eight, they urged the Gang of Eight, they wrote letters to the Gang of Eight,” Sessions continued. “I sent information to the Gang of Eight asking them to consult with the officers who have the duty to enforce this law but to no avail. They were shut out of every meeting and have never really been consulted.”
Sessions continued that during the Judiciary Committee markup there were amendments that failed in the name of keeping the bill moving forward.
“At every turn in the committee the members of the Gang of Eight expressed support on occasions for certain amendments but only to vote against the amendment,” he said, “Due, they said, to the agreement they had to vote together and against signification amendments regardless of their personal feelings. The Gang influenced other members on the committee to do the same.”
Friday Session’s office distributed a list to reporters of comments Gang of Eight and Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee made during the committee mark-up of the legislation that implied certain amendments to the legislation would be a “dealbreaker” to the precarious balance achieved in the bill — including phrases like “I don’t think we want to slow this thing down,” “I don’t want this to be a deal breaker,” and “I don’t want to break this deal.”
“So they’ve got an agreement. They’ve got an agreement with the unions and the big business and the agribusiness and La Raza and immigration lawyers. They got an agreement with them, and they’re going to defend it even though they acknowledge amendments that were offered would improve the bill. This is no way to serve the national interest in my view,” Sessions continued on the floor.
“Who is protecting the national interests?” Sessions asked, going on to note that he believes the Senate’s current immigration bill is weaker than the 2007 attempt at reform which failed.