Goodlatte’s commitment to a very deliberative, committee-driven process will likely stall the flurry of immigration activity that has been dominating Capitol Hill for the past month. In fact, House Republicans expect to be reviewing the issue well into the summer.
After his talks at the Capitol, Goodlatte provides attendees with a PowerPoint presentation about immigration reform that they can use during town halls in their districts. Those slides aren’t selling any specific bill but are focused on a wide array of problems, from the border patrol to the visa program.
“I tell them that we’re going to break this all down into pieces that are more digestible,” he says. “We’re going to have a lot of hearings, and we’re going to turn this into separate bills. We’ll do an agricultural-workers bill, then an E-Verify bill, and then after the recess, we’ll maybe do some more. But it’s all a work in progress.”
A vague deadline, piecemeal legislation, and months of town-hall meetings, however, are what the proponents of comprehensive immigration reform fear most. There is growing concern by allies of the Gang of Eight that volatile summertime confrontations with constituents could make many House Republicans uneasy.
Goodlatte has little patience for such hand-wringing. As a former immigration attorney who has been in the House for two decades, he says doing things his way — a slow burn — is the only viable option.
“You can’t solve all of the problems with one bill,” he says. “We don’t want to be in the situation you had with Obamacare, where, as Nancy Pelosi said, you have to pass a bill to find out what’s in it.”
— Robert Costa is National Review’s Washington editor.