Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the leading conservative advocate of immigration reform, has just walked back his support for comprehensive reform by calling for Congress to pass piecemeal legislation instead.
He announced and explained the sudden reversal in an email written yesterday by one of his top advisers. "We should not allow an inability to do everything to keep us from doing something. At this time, the only approach that has a realistic chance of success is to focus on those aspects of reform on which there is consensus through a series of individual bills."
This marks a serious turnaround from his once-optimistic rhetoric. When Rubio and seven other senators from both sides of the aisle introduced the immigration bill in question way back in April, he acknowledged that “this bill marks the beginning of an important debate” and that “it’s not perfect.” So why is he now running from the debate he not only anticipated, but asked for?
His comprehensive immigration bill passed the Senate in June and included both a plan to strengthen border security and a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The bill has since gotten stuck in the House, because the problem that the House Republicans have with the bill is also the main point of the immigration overhaul: the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The House Republican majority opposes this provision for amnesty, making Rubio’s support for it politically risky.
In an interview with Fox News this Sunday, right before he flip-flopped on his position, Rubio clearly allied himself with the House GOP and Tea Party by blaming the president for the lack of progress on the bill. “This notion that they’re [House Republicans] going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration is much more difficult to do … because of the way that president has behaved towards his opponents over the last few weeks.” As the proverb goes, when the going gets tough, blame Obama.
By calling for the House to focus on the parts of the bill that can be easily agreed upon, Rubio is throwing in the towel on his own bill and effectively joining the House Republicans, who don’t support the path for undocumented workers. Instead of seeing the golden opportunity that lies ahead — after all, the GOP could really use a boost in its poll numbers right now — Rubio is taking the same road as the extremist non-negotiators in his party. And we all saw how well that worked out for John Boehner.