GOP senators blast Reid over lack of votes on immigration amendments

Fourteen Republican senators have written to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Gang of Eight protesting the "deeply disturbing" fast-tracking of the 1,000-plus page immigration bill.

“After repeated promises of a full and open amendment process on the floor, we have had nine roll call votes on amendments to the Gang of Eight’s 1,076-page immigration bill. Nine. And there is the prospect of a full shut-down of amendment votes after today,” the group wrote in a letter to Reid Monday.

“This is deeply, deeply disturbing. It is effectively shutting down the American people's ability to be heard on this issue through their elected representatives,” they added.

At least 350 amendments have been filed to the comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the Senate has held roll-call votes on only nine of them.

Reid plans to strictly limit votes on amendments this week and has scheduled a vote to end debate on the bill Thursday.

The signatories include senators seen as possible “yes” votes for final passage of the bill: Sens. Dan Coats (Ind.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

Sens. David Vitter (La.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Boozman (Ark.), James Inhofe (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), John Thune (S.D.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Deb Fischer (Neb.) also signed the letter. 

A spokesman for Reid accused the GOP lawmakers of using the floor proceedings as an excuse to oppose the substance of the legislation.

“Sen. Reid takes the concerns of senators on both sides of the aisle very seriously, but the senators who signed this letter are the same senators who have been preventing amendment votes from occurring throughout this process. This letter is nothing more than a transparent attempt to suppress the strong bipartisan support for immigration reform,” said Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman.

Jentleson noted that 212 amendments were considered — and more than 40 GOP-sponsored amendments adopted — during the Judiciary Committee’s mark up in May. 

The group of GOP senators noted the Senate held 46 roll call votes on amendments during the 2007 floor debate on comprehensive immigration reform.   

“We believe that there should be, at a minimum, this same number of roll call votes on serious, contested floor amendments on the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill,” they wrote.

The group pledged to give consent to any reasonable request to speed up the floor proceedings if Reid granted additional votes on amendments.

Members of the Gang of Eight, which drafted the base bill, also received copies of the letter.