Goodlatte Poised To Move Up
Chairmanship Could Mean ‘Hard Slog’ For Immigration Changes
Posted: November 15, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Re-elected to an 11th term last week, 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke is now looking for a promotion.
And if he gets it, it could signal a “hard slog” ahead for immigration reform, one political analyst says.
The 20-year Republican congressman is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January, according to reports on Capitol Hill. The current chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, must step down because he has reached a six-year limit in the position.
Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who served as committee chairman from 2001 to 2007, and Howard Coble, R-N.C., have seniority over Goodlatte on the committee.
But the Virginia legislator is considered the favorite to replace Smith, reports say. That appears to be based on comments from Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate from Wisconsin, who conceded as much during a campaign stop in Roanoke in September, the Roanoke Times reported.
A House Republican steering committee will make a decision after Thanksgiving.
“It’s not a done deal,” Goodlatte said Tuesday. “It would be a great honor to chair that committee. … We don’t want to sound presumptuous.”
Because of that, he would not disclose what his goals would be as judiciary chairman.
The committee is “one of the most important in Congress,” said Goodlatte, a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
“It has very broad jurisdiction over a lot of areas,” he said.
Those include intellectual property law, immigration, criminal law and constitutional amendments.
Goodlatte is chairman of the Judicial Committee’s subpanel on intellectual property, competition and the Internet. He co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial measure that would expand the power of law enforcement to protect copyrighted material online.
Smith introduced the bill, which he tabled earlier this year, citing a lack of support.
But Goodlatte’s “pretty hard-lined” stance on immigration — opposing amnesty for undocumented immigrants, for example — is likely the more significant matter, especially for the 6th District, said Geoff Skelley, an analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“In that case, him being the chair of that committee could hurt any attempt at immigration reform,” he said. “A hard slog is ahead if there’s going to be any attempt at incorporating things like the Dream Act into immigration reform.”
The Dream Act, which has failed to pass Congress, would provide a path to citizenship for people brought to the country illegally as children.
Goodlatte opposes it. He has said it would essentially grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants, give them access to in-state tuition rates at public universities and grant them work authorizations at the expense of Americans.
Also, he says, children legalized under the Dream Act could petition to make their parents citizens. That would send the message to undocumented immigrants that they could bring their children to the country with the hope that they, too, would later be granted citizenship, Goodlatte claims.
But the Dream Act isn’t the only immigration reform proposal to include so-called “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. On Sunday, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, both said that they are working on immigration reform plans to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
And on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he expected an immigration reform bill to be introduced soon after his inauguration in January, and it would include such a path to legal status.
That leaves the House Judiciary Committee with an important voice.
“How much is either side willing to compromise on certain things?” Skelley said. “In recent times, the answer has been not a lot at all.”
Since Obama’s re-election, though, the Republican leadership has softened the party’s stance on immigration. Cognizant of the role Hispanics played in the president’s victory and of the growing influence of Hispanic voters in national politics, many Republicans have indicated a willingness to at least consider possible compromise on the issue.
Goodlatte did not return messages through a spokeswoman Wednesday to respond to the president’s comments.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org