Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is playing down his party's new scrutiny of the 14th Amendment, which among other things confers U.S. citizenship on anyone born in the United States. McConnell on Thursday portrayed calls for hearings on the amendment as simply an attempt to examine what he calls the "unseemly" business of foreigners showing up just in time to have their babies, then going back home.
"I'm not aware of anybody who's come out for altering the 14th Amendment," McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. He said the push for hearings stems from a Washington Post story about foreign businesses that supply visas to expectant mothers. "This is the kind of thing that irritates Americans quite a lot," he said. "I don't think having hearings on an obvious unseemly business is a threat to the 14th Amendment. What's wrong with looking into this? The Post did."
McConnell added that "the remedy for it is not yet clear. But I am not advocating revisiting the 14th Amendment and I don't think any others have. I think the view is, why don't we take a look at this?" Click play below to watch a video of McConnell's comments:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has floated the idea of amending the Constitution so that newborns of illegal immigrants are not given citizenship, a proposal that presumably would not affect women who arrive with valid visas and have their babies on U.S. soil. McConnell declined to comment on Graham's proposal, which is also supported by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Some Republicans are treading gingerly around the issue. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement the other day that hearings are always warranted when a member of Congress suggests amending the Constitution. But he also called the Constitution "a strong, complete and carefully crafted document that has successfully governed our nation for centuries" and said better border enforcement would "assist in addressing concerns associated with this issue."
The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection and due process to all citizens, and defines citizens as "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." It was passed by Republicans on a party-line vote in 1866, with the original purpose of protecting newly freed slaves. It is touted on the Republican National Committee website as one of the party's major accomplishments.
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