Politics & Policy

Goodlatte Content to Take His Time on Immigration

He wants to get it right, not just get it done.

On immigration, Senator Marco Rubio may be looking for a big legislative accomplishment to boost his probable presidential bid in 2016. Speaker John Boehner may be eying a grand, bipartisan compromise to help bolster his legacy. 

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, on the other hand, is a stickler for quality, and he doesn’t seem to feel the least bit of pressure to bow to anybody else’s demands or “artificial deadlines” to rush the process.

“I think it’s important that we get this done right, and that is far more important to me than when we get it done,” Goodlatte says in an interview in his office in the Rayburn building.

“An opportunity to fix it does not mean, ‘oh, we gotta meet some artificial deadline to keep up with the Senate.’ Especially if the Senate produces a bill that’s had few hearings and gets done on a schedule that suggests they haven’t spent as much time looking at the details. . . . . We’re determined to do that,” he adds.

The Virginia Republican is becoming all the more important to the immigration debate because a bipartisan House group working on the issue is faltering badly, prompting House leaders Wednesday to press them to produce something.

“They’ve been ‘going to have a bill next week’ for about three months now. I hear reports of different people influencing the process,” Goodlatte says.

Based on both his public and private comments, Boehner is highly interested in passing an immigration bill, saying last week it was at the “top of the list” of his agenda and that he expected completion of a new immigration law by the end of the year.

“I am very aware of the speaker’s great interest in this matter,” Goodlatte says.

Boehner’s efforts have led to increasing scrutiny over whether he would pass a comprehensive bill in violation of the so-called Hastert rule, which would require any bill to have the support of the “majority of the majority.” In a press conference today, Boehner said he wouldn’t push a bill that violates the GOP’s “principles.”

“I think it’s very important that any immigration bill that passes through the House be reflective of the values of the overall majority of Republicans,” says Goodlatte. “How we effectuate that, I leave to the people in charge of controlling the floor. But I certainly welcome the input of any members who want to have input in that process. Because I agree that this should be something that the House majority controls in the fashion of reflecting the values of the vast majority of the members,” he adds.

Goodlatte also outlined some of the many problems he has with the Senate immigration bill. Its lack of interior enforcement provisions, its cost, and that it grants legalization before enforcement measures are put into place mean he could not support it in its current form, he says

“There’s a long way between trying to send 10 million back home and giving them the same kind of easy pathway to citizenship they got in 1986. The Senate bill is not as easy as it was in 1986, with regard to the legalization for people who are not lawfully here, but I think it goes too far,” he says.

In the meantime, Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee will work on small, targeted bills that address specific problems with the immigration system. “We have been moving forward very steadily. We have four bills now, and we’re going to start marking them up very soon,” he says.

— Jonathan Strong is a political reporter at National Review Online.


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