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Bob Goodlatte: GOP point man on immigration urges 'regular order'

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte says that wherever the immigration debate winds up, nothing gets done in the end without education and building consensus in committee.

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Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, didn’t get the sexy assignment among Republican lawmakers in fixing the nation’s immigration laws.

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While Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida and Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho are the public Latino faces fighting the PR battle for an immigration fix, Representative Goodlatte is doing the spadework of making sure that, however the immigration reform debate breaks, House Republicans will be ready.

A 20-year House veteran from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Goodlatte laid out his perspective on the coming immigration reform debate in a half-hour interview with the Monitor on Friday.

Goodlatte’s goal is to ensure that the long-abandoned committee process for considering legislation is thrumming along robustly so that if bipartisan compromise comes, it will be absorbed into an already-moving process with members already well-educated on the issues.

If bipartisan compromise proves elusive, Goodlatte's efforts will unearth the pieces of immigration reform that House Republicans can support in order to patch as much of the system as possible.

A bipartisan group of eight senators laid out a package of consensus principles in January. A corresponding House group has been locked in closed-door discussions for weeks.

“We want to encourage [the bipartisan groups] to produce a work product. We will take that and then see what additional concerns we have, and we will take that to the broader membership of the House and see what their reaction is to it,” Goodlatte says. “It would be an important development to have either a bipartisan framework or actual bill produced.”

Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio has made it a priority to return as many bills as possible to what members of Congress know as “regular order,” the process by which potential legislation is shaped by lawmakers on its relevant congressional committee before coming to the House floor to face further amendments and, eventually, a vote.

From President Obama’s signature health-care law to a flurry of tax and spending bills proffered by GOP House leaders, among other notable examples, this has not been Congress’s standard operating procedure for years.

On Friday, Goodlatte began that process by holding the first educational session with members of the House Judiciary Committee. The information sessions will expand to all 233 members of the Republican caucus in the weeks to come, Goodlatte says, to make sure that members not only feel a part of the process but also can begin raising the issue with their constituents and chewing it over themselves before being pushed to make a decision on what could be politically explosive and complex immigration reforms.

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