SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers waded through 300 amendments to the proposed immigration reform bill on Thursday, and it looks like it's going to take a long time before anything is settled.
Utah's senators are right in the middle of this as well, since they've introduced a few amendments of their own. Thursday was the deadline for filing amendments and in the hearing room today, some senators accused their colleagues of trying to derail the whole reform bill.
The room was packed with plenty of disagreements from the start.
"There's some simple math here," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. "You're adding 11 million. They're already here."
"Well, they're going to be given full legal status," Sessions said to Schumer.
"There are some here who've already decided they're going to vote against this measure no matter what it says. That is their right."
The immigration reform bill is already 844 pages long and now there are several hundred amendments that have to be considered, one by one. Some lawmakers claim many of the amendments are aimed at killing the legislation all together.
"There are some here who've already decided they're going to vote against this measure no matter what it says," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "That is their right."
Schumer agreed with Durbin that the amendments will slow or stop the process.
"I would ask my colleagues, if you don't agree with everything — no one does — be constructive," Schumer said. "We are open to changes."
"I cannot speculate at this early stage about the likelihood of success, but I believe that it is possible and will do whatever I can to help reach that goal."
The amendments run the gamut, many calling for tweaks to be made with items already in the main bill. But a few senators have thrown in a few "pet projects" as well. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced 24 amendments; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has put in 23.
In remarks at the hearing today, Hatch said the solution to immigration reform will not be a simple process.
"I cannot speculate at this early stage about the likelihood of success, but I believe that it is possible and will do whatever I can to help reach that goal," Hatch said.
Lee suggested a step-by-step approach — that is, don't try to solve all the issues at once.
"Our immigration system is a complex puzzle with dozens of interconnected pieces, and some reforms must be completed before others can even really begin," Lee said.
It will take weeks for members of the judiciary committee to sift through all of the amendments, and then finalize the language of the actual bill that will be voted on this summer.
"This is an issue that has been around far too long and needs to be dealt with, and I intend to see that it's dealt with," said House Speaker John Boehner.
Thursday afternoon, the committee did start voting on some of the amendments — a process that may take a few weeks to get through.
You can read through all the amendments on the U.S. Senate website.