At the Immigration Hearings, Jeff Sessions Stands Alone

Sen. Jeff Sessions is frustrated.

ByABC News
May 14, 2013, 12:30 PM

May 14, 2013— -- Sen. Jeff Sessions is frustrated.

The Alabama Republican and chief opponent of the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill has found little success at the two recent hearings to consider amendments to said bill.

That's largely because members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" have been able to accomplish their stated goal of defeating amendments designed to gut this legislation, which include some from Sessions.

It helps that Democrats outnumber Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, where amendments to the bill are being considered. But even Republicans who are likely to join Sessions in voting against the final bill aren't on board with all of his ideas on immigration.

The entire committee, save Sessions, voted against a Sessions amendment that would have restricted the number of people eligible to enter the U.S. on green cards and work visas. The amendment would have capped the number of legal immigrants at 33 million over 10 years. The proposal was voted down 17-1.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a vocal opponent of the "Gang of Eight" bill, rejected the notion that the government should significantly restrict the future flow of immigrants.

"We need to remain a nation that not just welcomes, but celebrates legal immigrants," Cruz said. "I think we should expand legal immigration but do so in conjunction with putting real teeth on border [enforcement]."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), a Republican on the "Gang of Eight," offered up a master class in trolling by claiming that Sessions agreed with "people on the Democratic side," including labor unions, on lower future flow.

Sessions received more support for an amendment that would have made the pathway to citizenship contingent on implementing an ideal, but costly, biometric entry/exit system for visas. Still, that failed six votes to twelve. And the two Gang of Eight Republicans who sit on the Judiciary Committee both voted against it.

"Our bill, in my view, definitely improves the current system and makes it better," said Graham.

Sessions' office rejected the notion that the Alabama senator hasn't been effective in spreading his views.

"Opposition to this flawed proposal broadens each day and on many different fronts – rule of law, wages, impact to taxpayers, etc.," spokesman Stephen Miller said in an e-mail. "One of the most significant developments is a letter from courageous law officers nationwide – including the President of the ICE officers' union – expressing their deep concern over how this legislation will undermine the public's safety and the nation's security."

But throughout the hearing, Sessions appeared exasperated at the efforts to beat back his amendments, and singled out the Gang of Eight.

The Gang of Eight only accepts "modest amendments that don't make much difference," he continued. "They don't accept anything that deals with the integrity of the bill."

Sessions even got into a tiff with Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who repeatedly attempted to cut off his lengthy monologue about how higher immigration levels would harm the U.S. economy. Sessions insisted his points were important, but Leahy threatened that the committee would have to work through the weekend if the Alabamian continued to go on.

Comprehensive immigration reform still faces a tough road to passage. But for the time being, the man who's leading the charge against it has been pushed to the margins of the debate.

This article was updated at 2:57 PM.