WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Senate committee chairman on Wednesday chided bipartisan negotiators working on an immigration bill, saying their progress is too slow and the delay is setting back action on reform.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also has criticized President Barack Obama, saying he's urged the president to send his own immigration bill to Congress. Obama has instead chosen to let the bipartisan negotiations proceed, even though deadlines have come and gone.
Leahy said in a statement that because there's no bill yet, the Judiciary Committee won't be able to approve a sweeping immigration bill by the end of April. That had been his goal.
"Without legislative language, there is nothing for the Judiciary Committee to consider this week," he said. "The upcoming recess period would have allowed all members of the committee and the American people to review the legislation. Now that process, and our work, will be delayed at least a month."
The bipartisan Gang of Eight, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., initially said they'd release their legislation in March but recently acknowledged it wouldn't happen until April.
Brian Fallon, Schumer's spokesman, said the Gang of Eight was very close to agreement and hopes the Judiciary Committee will take up their bill in April.
The legislation would call for securing the border, improving legal immigration and workplace enforcement, and creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who are not part of the Gang of Eight also have begun to complain about the pace of negotiations, although their concern has been that the process was moving too fast, not too slow. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and other Republicans signed a letter this week saying such an important issue shouldn't be dealt with behind closed doors and needed ample time for full committee consideration.