The immigration debate is entering a new phase, ABC News has learned, as the bipartisan group known as the Gang of Eight is poised to introduce preliminary legislation within the next week.
The eight senators met Tuesday afternoon with Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and moved closer to sorting through the lingering issues between Democrats and Republicans. Leahy plans to hold the first hearing soon after the legislation is introduced, officials say, and has pledged to have unlimited debate and amendments during the committee discussion.
The Republican members of the group intend to explain the legislation to the full Republican conference on Wednesday.
Republicans plan to ask for as much time as possible to debate the bill, aides said. The Judiciary Committee is not expected to start "marking up" the bill until the week of May 6.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is a member of the immigration group, is calling for multiple public hearings to debate the legislation.
"Senator Rubio has said from the outset that we will not rush this process, and that begins at the committee level," Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, told ABC News. "The Judiciary Committee must have plenty of time to debate and improve the bipartisan group's proposal, so it's good that senators and the public will have weeks to study this proposal before the Judiciary Committee will mark it up."