Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hopes the Senate's passage of immigration reform will carry the measure through the House.
"I've got to admit in all my years (in Congress), I cannot think of a time I was so emotional on the floor." Leahy said of his summation speech following the bill passing 68-32. He's trying to coax colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote favorably on the measure as well.
"Can anybody standup and say the immigration system we have now is working perfectly," said Leahy, "I think it would be a tragic thing for the U.S. if we don't get a bill through the House."
Leahy says the bill is the product of old-fashioned, bi-partisan compromise. His committee spent more than 40 hours considering 150 amendments and the whole process could be followed online.
He says House Speaker John Boehner should not allow congressional Tea Party members, who Leahy called "a tiny, radical element", to derail the upcoming debate. Boehner has stated that the House will write its own measure.
"Frankly, I would rather be, if I was in the House, right, than be speaker (of the House). I think what he ought to do is say is,'we're going to do what's best for the country'."
The remarks came in a 40-minute press conference Friday in which the country's most-senior senator also covered the stalled farm bill, and supreme court decisions tackling gay and voting rights.
The senator says leaks by 29-year-old government contractor Edward Snowden regarding extensive government surveillance of the American public did not reveal any information he didn't already know. He says the release of classified data revealed sloppy procedures in the National Security Agency.
When asked if the leaks benefited the public, he responded, "I can't think how." Leahy said they would only have an impact if the debate leads to passage of his reform proposals covering the Patriot Act and secret FISA court.
Leahy is calling for faster expiration of some wire-tapping provisions and more information on the matters that land in front of the secret court. He added that too many documents are classified unnecessarily.
We asked what additional laws governing domestic spying can accomplish when foreign allies frequently share information. He said he would be sharing classified information by answering, "so I'll just tell you it's a great question."
After 40 minutes at the podium Leahy thanked the press and saw his chance to ask the question that's on every Vermonter's mind, "is this rain ever going to stop?"
The Senate is currently in recess. Congress will return to Washington after the July 4th, holiday.
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