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McConnell: Senate Immigration Bill Needs "Major Changes'


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need for major changes to the Senate immigration bill through debate and an open amendment process:

"At any given time in our nation's history, lawmakers have been faced with many pressing challenges. Some, by their very nature, demand immediate action. Others build over time, so forcing action on them usually involves some combination of foresight and persuasion.

"The great challenge of our own day, in my view, is figuring out how to reform government programs that are growing so big so fast that, unless we act, they'll eventually consume the entire federal budget. This is an issue I've devoted a lot of time and energy to over the past few years, and that I had hoped the two parties could resolve in a way that would win the support of the public and the markets.

"As it turned out, the President wasn't as interested in that kind of an agreement as I was, so last year I reluctantly concluded that we wouldn't be able to do anything significant about entitlements anytime soon. Without presidential leadership, something like that is just impossible. Hopefully the President will have a change of heart at some point on that most important issue. But none of this means we can't try to do something about any of the other big issues we face -- including immigration.

"There may be some who think our current immigration system is working. But I haven't met them. And as an elected leader in my party, it's my view that we at least need to try to improve a situation that as far as I can tell very few people believe is working well either for our own citizens, or for those around the world who aspire to become Americans.

"Everyone knows the current system is broken. Our borders are not secure. Those who come legally often stay illegally, and we don't know who or where they are. Our immigration laws, last changed almost three decades ago, fail to take into account the needs of our rapidly-changing economy. So what we're doing today is initiating a debate.

"We're all grateful for the hard work of the so-called Gang of Eight. But today's vote isn't a final judgment on their product as much as it is a recognition of the problem, a national one, that needs debate.

"The Gang of Eight has done its work. Now it's time for the Gang of 100 to do its work -- for the entire Senate to have its say on this issue, and see if we can do something to improve the status quo. At the risk of stating the obvious, this bill has serious flaws.

"I'll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it's going to become law. These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits, and taxes.

"I'm going to need more than an assurance from Secretary Napolitano, for instance, that the border is secure to feel comfortable about the situation on the border. Too often recently, we have been reminded that as government grows it becomes less responsible to the American people, and fails to perform basic functions either through incompetence or willful disregard of the wishes of Congress. Our continued failure to secure major portions of the border not only makes true immigration reform far more difficult; it presents an urgent threat to national security.

"Some have also criticized this bill for its cost to taxpayers. It's a fair critique. Those who were here illegally shouldn't have their unlawful status rewarded with benefits and tax credits. So this bill has some serious flaws. And we need to be serious about fixing them. The goal here should be to make the status quo better, not worse. And that's what the next few weeks are about: they're about giving the entire Senate, and indeed, the entire country, an opportunity to weigh in on this debate, to make their voices heard, and try to improve our immigration policy. And that means an open amendment process.

"But let me be clear: doing nothing about a problem we all acknowledge isn't a solution. It's an avoidance strategy. And the longer we wait to have this debate, as difficult as it is, the harder it'll be to solve the problem.

"We tried to do something six years ago, and didn't succeed. We may not succeed this time either. But attempting to solve tough problems in a serious and deliberate manner is precisely what the Senate, at its best, should do. And it's what we're going to try to do in this debate."

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