Add Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to the list of Republican lawmakers ready to embrace comprehensive immigration reform. The Kentucky Republican is set to explain his vision in a speech this morning.
On the heels of the Republican National Committee's post-election autopsy report, which encouraged Republicans to support broad immigration law changes, Paul is expected to say that party members need to embrace reform or deal with being out of political power for decades."Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to permanent minority status," Paul said according to excerpts from the speech. "The Republican Party has insisted for years that we stand for freedom and family values. I am most proud of my party when it stands for both."Paul is also expected to call for providing a path to citizenship, which he also called for after the election. However, excerpts obtained by CQ Roll Call did not include any direct endorsement.
At this point, the details of Paul's immigration policy are unclear, so we don't yet know how much his plan differs, it at all, from the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" Senate proposal, which is due to be formally unveiled next month. [Update: Paul's office now insists the senator does not support a pathway to citizenship, despite earlier reports that it would now be part of his position.]
But the fact that Paul is making the policy pronouncement at all tells us a couple of things. First, it now seems clear that comprehensive immigration reform has a filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber. In addition to the 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, there are four Republicans participating in the bipartisan framework (McCain, Graham, Rubio, and Flake), and now Paul is on board with the general idea. It's likely less-conservative senators like Collins and Kirk would sign on, too, suggesting breaking a Republican filibuster should be fairly easy.
Second, comprehensive immigration reform appears to be picking up some political momentum. The Republican National Committee, which generally shies away from policy guidance, endorsed the idea yesterday; Jeb Bush was forced to backpedal after initially rejecting comprehensive reform two weeks ago; Republican pollsters spent some time at CPAC explaining why the party doesn't really have any choice; the bipartisan Senate plan is nearly done and the bipartisan House plan should be hot on its heels.
On a conceptual level, comprehensive reform has even been endorsed by Sean Hannity, Rupert Murdoch, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
This matters to the extent that House Republicans are clearly skeptical about provisions like a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States, but the prevailing winds may make opposition an untenable option.
If a bipartisan Senate bill passes the Senate with a sizable majority; the public supports the idea; President Obama is pushing for success; Fox News is on board; and Republican pollsters are pleading with the House GOP to do the right thing; it's going to be quite difficult for the House majority to kill reform and walk away.