GOP Senate committee seats to influence immigration initiatives in next Congress

24 Dec 14

UNITED STATES

Last week, Senate Republican leadership announced new committee assignments for the next Congress. Starting in January, the GOP will claim the majority in the Senate and take control of all oversight panels. This includes the Judiciary Committee, which oversees most matters relating to immigration, where they will gain one additional seat on the panel in addition to the chairmanship.

Several familiar Republican faces will appear on this committee, but there are a few newcomers as well. Their leadership of the panel is likely to play an integral role in how immigration reform initiatives fare in the upcoming legislative cycle. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 11 GOP Judiciary Committee members and their main stances on immigration.

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) – Sen. Grassley is senior on the committee and will likely serve as chairman. He tends to be skeptical of immigration reform in general and has been very vocal in his calls for more oversight of high-skilled work visas, particularly the H-1B program.

Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – Sen. Hatch has recently been a main GOP advocate for high-skilled immigration reform. Last year, he co-sponsored the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act, which would increase the number of H-1B petitions allowed per year, among other measures. In a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, he vowed to reintroduce the bill soon.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) – Sen. Sessions opposes most immigration reform. He is one of the staunchest opponents of immigration in the Senate.

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – Sen. Graham was a member of the “Gang of 8,” which wrote the comprehensive immigration reform bill that cleared the Senate during the last session. He has relatively moderate views on immigration and is a proponent of acting to solve the current broken system as soon as possible.

John Cornyn (R-Tex.) – Sen. Cornyn is senior on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security and will likely serve as chairman of the subcommittee during the next session. He is most concerned with border issues that affect his home state of Texas, but he has also sponsored legislation that would increase high-skilled immigration, particularly for foreign graduates with U.S. degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Mike Lee (R-Utah) – Sen. Lee is a very conservative member and he opposes most immigration reform measures. However, he may be open to supporting certain piecemeal immigration bills.

Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) – Sen. Cruz is very vocal in his conservative views and he opposes most immigration reform measures. He has been the most outspoken opponent in the Senate of President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, including leading the movement to attempt to block the most recent government funding bill in protest.

Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) – Sen. Flake, who was also a member of the “Gang of 8,” has relatively moderate views on immigration and is a proponent of acting to solve the current broken system as soon as possible. As a former member of the House of Representatives, he sponsored immigration bills in favor of green cards for foreign graduates with U.S. degrees in STEM fields.

David Vitter (R-La.) – Sen. Vitter is new to the committee and has indicated an interest in securing the borders and opposing immigration executive action.

David Perdue (R-Ga.) – Incoming Sen. Perdue is new to Congress and favors strict border security, but otherwise has little track record on immigration issues.

Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) – Incoming Sen. Tillis is new to Congress and also favors strict border security and opposes immigration executive action, but otherwise has little track record on immigration issues.

BAL is paying close attention to all movement in Congress as the new session prepares to begin. We will continue to provide updates as more decisions are made and additional information becomes available. For more frequent updates and news, follow us on our BAL Government Affairs twitter page.

For additional information or questions:

Lynden Melmed, Partner
Washington D.C.
Direct: 202.842.5830
lmelmed@balglobal.com

Christiana Kern, Legislative Analyst
Direct: 202.842.5831
ckern@balglobal.com

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