Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) has a challenge for which there is no obvious answer. He helped write a popular, bipartisan immigration-reform bill, which his party's base hates with the heat of a thousand suns. If the conservative Floridian abandons his own legislation, he looks craven and cowardly. If the senator stands by his work, the Republican base will reject him.
And so Rubio is left trying to distance himself from his own bill in a way that doesn't make him look ridiculous. As we were reminded yesterday
, it's easier said than done.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday said Congress "will never have the votes" for a comprehensive immigration bill without first addressing border security, urging a step-by-step approach to the issue. "We will never have the votes necessary to pass a one, in one bill, all of those things," said Rubio on "Fox News Sunday" about border security, a path to legalization and an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. "It just won't happen."
What's wrong with this? Well, everything.
First, the whole point of comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio championed as recently as last year, is to create a compromise framework that both parties could embrace: Republicans get increased border security; Democrats get a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States. Rubio's new line is that the GOP should get 100% of what it wants now, and later, Republicans will think about Democratic priorities.
In other words, the senator has gone from endorsing a bipartisan compromise to endorsing a policy in which his party gets everything it wants in exchange for nothing but the promise of possible action at some point in the future.
Second, while Rubio 2013 believed Congress can and should pass his bipartisan legislation, Rubio 2014 insists his bill "just won't happen" because "we will never have the votes." But this too is at odds with what we know -- by many estimates, if the House Republican leadership brought comprehensive immigration reform to the floor, it would pass. That assessment is shared by many from the left, right, and center, which is why GOP leaders refuse to allow the House to work its will.
When Rubio says the votes aren't there, he arguably has it backwards -- the bill passed the Senate easily, and would likely fare just as well in the House if given a chance.
As for the Florida Republican inching away from his own positions, Rubio remains in an awkward spot
"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace on Sunday challenged Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to explain why he pulled his support for the Senate bipartisan immigration reform bill. Wallace displayed polls showing Rubio's favorability taking a hit since supporting the bill. "Is that why you have now switched and said we have to do this in stages with enforcement first and any dealing with legality or citizenship for the immigrants way down the line and afterward?" Wallace asked. Rubio said his stance on immigration reform has nothing to do with politics.
Perish the thought.