Immigration Reform 2013: Marco Rubio Pulling Double Duty As Critic and Supporter Of Reform

Although the immigration reform bill has had a relatively easy road through the Senate thus far, critics are still pointing out what they feel are flaws in the bill. One of the more prominent critics to emerge of the immigration reform bill is Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who appears to be doing double duty as both a supporter of the bill and a critic.

Marco Rubio supports the general overall immigration reform bill but he has engaged in repeated criticism about the other parts of the bill. As a member of the original Gang of 8 that hammered out the initial bill and generally seen as instrumental the bill’s eventual success or failure Rubio walks a fine line between the two sides he has to please in order to get the bill passed that helps his political future.

Rubio is seen by many as the ambassador to conservatives on the fence about supporting immigration reform. While he supports the centerpiece of the bill, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, he has also engaged in criticism of issues that many conservative have staked out on, such as border security.

That’s why earlier in May Rubio said that he felt that the border security provisions in the bill were not strong enough. On "The Sean Hannity Show" talk radio program he told listeners concerned about border security, “Clearly what we have in there now is not good enough for too many people and so we've got to make it better. And that's what I'm asking for and that's what we're working on.”

Rubio has staked much of his political capital on the immigration reform bill but walks a potential minefield. He wants as much conservative support for the bill as he can get to avoid the dreaded label that he is a RINO, Republican in Name Only. Such a label would stymie his future plans.

Rubio can barely disguise his interest in running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. He already formed a joint fundraising committee, the Rubio Victory Committee, to streamline fundraising between his personal campaign and his PAC, Reclaim America. This is using the same strategy that national candidates use, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Rubio was also one of the first to visit Iowa after the 2012 election, not even a month after Mitt Romney had lost to President Barack Obama. Iowa is of course the first state to vote in the presidential nomination process.

But as critical as to maintain an appeal to conservatives is, a defeat of the bill would be even more catastrophic to Rubio. Any final bill will require a great deal of the Democratic caucus in the Senate to support it and if Rubio goes too far in his criticism he risks alienating them.

If Rubio can convince other 2016 Republican hopefuls like Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) to support it, the anti-immigration backlash will be spread out and more muted. If it’s passed with mostly democratic votes Rubio can at least attempt to keep selling it to conservatives and throw other red meat to conservatives, such as Obamacare, the IRS scandal, or both combined. But if it crashes and burns like the 2007 attempt at immigration reform, the blame will probably leave a black mark that 2016 opponents will be able to club him with.

Thus, Rubio must walk a tightrope, attempting to prop up as much conservative support for the bill as possible to blunt the backlash he will receive but not alienated the Democrats that are needed for the bill’s success. He has taken on the most dangerous thing you do in the Republican Party.

Bipartisanship.

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Gabriel Rodriguez

Gabriel Rodriguez is currently studying for a Masters in Applied Economics at Georgetown. He is a graduate of New College of Florida with a degree in Economics. He is interested in econometrics, statistical analysis, behavioral economics, and developmental economics.

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