A Republican congressman from a heavily Hispanic district is breaking ranks from his party to join Democrats in an eleventh-hour push for a broad immigration overhaul before the end of the year. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) plans to sign on as the lone GOP member with 185 Democrats to co-sponsor a plan that would give millions of unauthorized immigrants the chance to attain citizenship.
It was only a matter of time before Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) abandoned the immigration reform legislation he ostensibly helped write, and as of this morning, the transition is complete. A top spokesperson for the Florida Republican told TPM Rubio believes the House should consider "a series of individual bills," instead of the comprehensive approach that enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate, and which would probably pass the House in an up-or-down vote.
Rubio's move may appear craven, but it's not surprising. Rubio hoped immigration would be his one area of accomplishment as a senator, but underestimated the fierce blowback from the right. He's now managed to disappoint nearly everyone -- conservatives disapprove of his work on legislation they abhor, and reform proponents see a former ally walking away from them when they need him most.
But Rubio's betrayal of the cause he claimed to support isn't the only news of note on the immigration front.
"I'm the first Republican," Denham told the Washington Post. "I expect more to come on board."
In recent months, a handful of House Republicans have indicated their willingness to support a comprehensive solution, similar if not identical to the bipartisan Senate package, but Denham is the first to officially sign on as a co-sponsor of a Democratic bill.
Indeed, it's worth noting that the House Democrats' proposal was designed to encourage GOP backing. It includes, for example, the text of a border security bill written by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.).
Denham is, of course, only one of 232 House Republicans, so his decision, though symbolically significant, has limited legislative impact. That said, it comes against an interesting backdrop -- just as the California Republican was announcing his support for comprehensive reform, Caterpillar and Home Depot, both of which generally support GOP candidates, also called on Congress to approve immigration reform.
And they're not alone. A new lobbying effort is getting underway in support of reform -- targeting 80 House Republicans from 40 states -- backed by a diverse group of proponents, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a political action group established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The larger takeaway is this: there's still time on the clock and the outcome has not yet been determined. It's easy to predict failure -- if I were laying odds, I'd say reform's chances aren't good -- but there's plenty of movement and there's no reason to assume that proponents' efforts are necessarily in vain.