Mitt Romney quietly told supporters the other day that he'd like to see a "Republican DREAM Act" to help his party with Latino voters. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) believes he has just such a proposal, but he's run into three fairly significant problems.
First, Romney is too afraid of the political fallout to take a position on the proposal either way. Second, Rubio's policy is plainly inadequate, and offers affected immigrants no pathway to citizenship.
And third, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), before Rubio has even finished putting his bill together, effectively told the senator yesterday not to bother.
The Speaker said Rubio, a rising GOP star, had briefed him on the details of his plan, but when he was asked about it on Thursday, Boehner gave no endorsement."Well, there's always hope," Boehner said in response to a question on whether the GOP House could pass an immigration bill not solely focused on border security. "I found it of interest," he said of Rubio's proposal, "but the problem with this issue is that we're operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this ... I think it would be difficult at best."
Or to translate, the House GOP caucus isn't ready to pass any DREAM Act, even one written by a Republican for Republicans.
Boehner's comments come less than a week after Kris Kobach, Romney's right-wing immigration adviser, also said Rubio's conservative version of the plan is simply too liberal for the party's hard-line, anti-immigrant base.
Romney may want a "Republican DREAM Act," but Boehner's and Kobach's reaction to Rubio's efforts reinforce a larger truth: the GOP simply hasn't left itself any room to maneuver. George W. Bush's comprehensive immigration reform package from his second term is now seen in Republican circles as liberal nonsense; the DREAM Act that had enjoyed strong support from Republicans like Orrin Hatch, Dick Lugar, and John McCain has now been abandoned by the party altogether; and now a watered-down DREAM Act is dead on arrival before it's even been written.
There's no room to govern, no room to compromise, and no opportunity to reach out to Latino voters between now and November with a positive message.