Republicans on Tuesday boycotted a Democratic-led subcommittee hearing on Arizona’s controversial immigration bill.
The GOP senators called the hearing “theater” and said it was a poor attempt to influence Wednesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the measure.
But Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' Dem senator: GOP controls all of gov't, so success or failure is on them Trump tweets: We’ll put together a great plan after Obamacare explodes MORE (N.Y.) — who as Democratic chairman of the subcommittee called the hearing — said it was typical of Republicans to pull a no-show, given that they have been largely absent from the debate on immigration reform.
“None of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle came to this hearing. That’s not surprising,” Schumer said. “They’re absent from this hearing just as they’ve been absent from every attempt we’ve made to negotiate a comprehensive solution to our immigration problem.”
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill Senators push Trump on defense deals with India MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the hearing was “election-year theater” that would do nothing to help reform the country’s broken immigration system.
“This is not an attempt at having a sincere hearing on the merits," Cornyn said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Democrat majority seems to have embraced President Obama's ‘mañana’ approach to immigration reform.”
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) is the architect of the controversial law, which requires Arizona law enforcement officers to verify legal status if, after stopping a person for violating a law, they suspect the person of being in the country illegally.
An officer cannot stop someone based solely on the suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, but Democrats and civil rights groups are concerned the state measure will lead to racial profiling.
Pearce testified before the subcommittee on Tuesday in favor of the law and said he was “disappointed” that Republicans didn’t show up to support it. He said he would have liked a heads-up from Cornyn or Kyl about the boycott.
“I kind of would have appreciated a phone call,” said Pearce to reporters after the hearing, adding that he was sure the Republicans had their reasons for not attending. “But I’m not one to run from what is the right thing to do.
“We knew this was mostly politics. [Congress doesn’t] have a vote and the Supreme Court does.”
None of the subcommittee’s other Republicans, including Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Iowa), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Utah) or Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSanders: 'What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?' Poll: Trump controversies make him more popular among supporters More than ever, Justice must demand a special prosecutor for Trump-Russia probe MORE (Ala.), attended the hearing.
Schumer and Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student MORE (Ill.) were the only Democratic members to attend. Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Dems land few punches on Gorsuch MORE (D-Vt.), the chairman of the full committee, Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll MORE (D-Calif.), Al FrankenAl FrankenFriends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Lawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day Franken challenges witness endorsement of Gorsuch MORE (D-Minn.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (D-Conn.) were also no-shows.
The Supreme Court plans to meet Wednesday for oral arguments on whether it is constitutional for a state to craft its own immigration laws — an act historically reserved for the federal government. The Obama administration sued Arizona after the measure was signed into law in 2010.
Safeguarding against the possibility that the Supreme Court could move to uphold the Arizona law, Schumer said he plans to introduce a measure that would bar states from enacting their own penalties for violators of federal immigration laws.
Schumer’s bill would also prohibit state and local law enforcement from stopping or holding violators of immigration law, unless the officers have been trained as part of a federal enforcement effort.
The New York Democrat's measure would force lawmakers to take a tough vote on immigration in an election year when both parties are eager to court Latino voters.
Republicans in the upper chamber would likely vote to uphold the Arizona measure despite the strong opposition of Latino groups.
But the GOP could try to turn the tables on Schumer by arguing his bill is another example of Democrats voting to expand the size and power of the federal government at the expense of state and local governments.
Even if it made it out of the Senate, Pearce said there’s no way Schumer’s bill would pass the House’s Republican majority.
Pearce said he supports the vision of de facto Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But Romney, who said earlier this year that the Arizona law was a “model” for the country, has walked back those comments. His campaign says the former governor was referring to only one of the Arizona law’s 10 provisions, regarding the use of E-verify for employment screenings.
Pearce said he “absolutely” took Romney’s comments at face value.
— Updated at 8:21 p.m.