Senator Marco Rubio is the man of the hour. He has deftly positioned himself as the indispensable figure in this year’s immigration debate.
His participation has given the Gang of Eight approach to amnesty some insulation from grassroots conservative criticism, at least for a time. Liberals in Congress understand that his imprimatur is essential to get Republican votes for the amnesty.
But Rubio’s position as a bridge between the parties on immigration means he faces conflicting demands. He wants to ride success on immigration to the 2016 presidential nomination but has also made hard commitments to conservatives about what provisions will have to be in the bill — provisions that Democrats have rejected.
The Washington Post highlighted Rubio’s pivotal role in an editorial this week calling on the Republican party to “evolve” on immigration:
If GOP stars such as Mr. Rubio decide once and for all to lead, that may be enough to sway fence-sitting Republicans in the House. If they waver, this year’s attempt at immigration reform, like those of past years, is as good as dead.
The editorial sums up the political situation pretty well: If Rubio sticks with the Schumer-McCain-Graham scheme, the bill has a chance of passage (though it could still be defeated). But if he walks away, saying he tried to negotiate in good faith but couldn’t accept the final result, then the amnesty push is over.
The opportunities to walk away are already piling up. Rubio has said amnesty would be “undoable” if the amnestied illegals would be eligible for Obamacare. Yet all Senate Democrats, plus two Republicans, voted last month against an amendment that would have barred amnestied illegals from receiving federally subsidized health care.
Rubio has insisted that a bill would include security benchmarks that would have to be achieved before the amnestied illegal aliens could progress from the green-card-lite status they’d get on Day One to full green-card status. Logically, these benchmarks, or triggers, are irrelevant, little more than a fig leaf for amnesty, because they would not affect the provision of work cards, Social Security accounts, driver’s licenses, etc. But even that fig leaf was rejected by Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano.
Rubio has also said he won’t go along with any bill that is rammed through Congress, à la Obamacare. When Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy said in a letter that the immigration bill, once introduced, would be acted on “with all deliberate speed,” Rubio insisted on “hearings that explore multiple perspectives on the scope of the problems we face and the efficacy of the solutions we propose,” plus a “robust floor debate,” all broadcast live on C-SPAN.
In response, Leahy said he would “consider” a hearing — a hearing — but that there’s an “urgent need” to pass an amnesty “quickly and decisively” and “without unnecessary delay.”
We won’t know for some time yet how Rubio will respond to the Obamacare and trigger issues, but his press secretary’s response in a tweet to this brush-off by Leahy suggests Rubio may be so committed to amnesty that he’ll swallow anything the Democrats throw at him:
In good sign for immigration, @senatorleahy recognizes need for public hearing on bipartisan Senate proposal in letter back to @marcorubio