Immigration Bill Unveiled Amid Bombings, Ricin & Gun Bill Defeat

Monday, eclipsed by the news of the tragedy in Boston, the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators released the much-anticipated immigration reform bill. Coming in at “half as long as some feared, and less than a third as long as ObamaCare,” the rumors of a 1,500 page bill proved false, Hot Air notes.

The bill’s 844 pages include billions of dollars for beefed-up border security, coupled with a “pathway to citizenship” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., plus new visas for a half-million new high and low-skilled workers. In the face of some initial blowback in Congress and the press, the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Marco (R-Fla.), announced that hearings on the bill, initially proposed for Wednesday, will be postponed to Friday and Monday. Overall, however, Rubio has won plaudits for the roll-out of the bill. The young Florida senator this week selling the new bill on five network Sunday shows, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and FOX — and adding Spanish-language interviews on Univision’s Al Punto and Telemundo’s Enfoque, set a new record of seven Sunday shows, dubbed a “full Rubio.” Even more strategic has been Rubio’s behind-the-scenes push for the bill, as Politico reported:

“The Florida Republican has privately briefed individual GOP senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee — including conservative skeptics John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah — about the soon-to-be-unveiled proposal, according to sources familiar with the matter. His staff has pitched the plan to conservative thought leaders, including at the National Review and Wall Street Journal editorial board as well as the columnist Charles Krauthammer, sources say…”

Rubio has pushed for multiple hearings on the bill in the Judiciary Committee, for an “open process.” However, the panel’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)  is giving far fewer than Rubio wanted, leading the Florida Senator to float the idea of hosting multiple Republican-only hearings to allow for an airing of conservative angst about the bill. “We will begin marking up the bill,” by early May Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York predicted. The Gang of 8 members have a tentative agreement to “stick together” in opposing any substantive amendments to alter the bill when it comes up for a floor vote. It remains to be seen whether that agreement will hold up in the face of political difficult or tempting amendments proposed by immigration-hawk senators on the Right and more dovish senators on the Left.

Rubio and Schumer’s “Gang of 8″ cosponsors on the bill are rounded out by Democratic Sens. Michael Bennett of Colorado, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey; and Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  On Tuesday, gang members McCain and Schumer met that the White House with President Obama to map strategy and discuss the bill’s prospects.

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