Marco Rubio the Senator from Florida, and member of the “Gang of 8” is now telling House Republicans not to pass the Senate legislation he co-sponsored and championed for months – he’s urging them not to negotiate with the Senate at all.
In a brutal twist for reform, Rubio’s office told a conservative news outlet on Sunday that Speaker Boehner should not go to conference with the Senate to pass a final bill. That’s the position anti-immigration House Republicans have taken for months, but the whole reason they oppose Senate talks is that they’re scared Boehner will cut a deal that’s – well, that’s just like Rubio’s bill. Now Senator Rubio intead suggesting the House pass a series of piecemeal bills that could fall short of a comprehensive package, a direction Conant called more “realistic.”
Rubio’s new position is a shocking turnaround, considering many believed he would use his conservative star power to give the Republican-controlled House cover for a tough vote on immigration reform. The hope among national Republicans when Rubio joined the Senate’s efforts was that its passage would both move the party forward and leave Rubio well-positioned for a presidential run.
Rubio was always the most reluctant member of the “Gang of 8” that passed the Senate bill, but that’s what made him arguably its most valuable piece. After previously opposing legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Rubio embraced the issue after the 2012 elections and campaigned hard in right-wing circles for a solution. There were certain points in the run-up to the Senate vote where his dedication to the cause seemed shaky, but immigration advocates always defended those previous lapses as part of a strategy to get conservatives on board.
Rubio’s comments come as a handful of House Repubicans in Latino-heavy districts are moving the opposite direction and coming out more forcefully for reform. Over the weekend, Congressman Jeff Denham of California became the first Republican to sign onto a Democratic immigration bill modeled on Rubio’s Senate plan, Arizona Congressman Trent Franks suggested he was open to a path to citizenship, and Congressman Joe Heck of Nevada put out a tough statement pushing Republicans to hurry up and pass major legislation. But it’s hard to tell whether their movement signals momentum for a bill or just that vulnerable Republican are distancing themselves from the party ahead of its failure.
Denham told reporters on Monday that he agreed with Rubio that the Senate bill couldn’t pass the House without changes, but in his opinion the best solution is going to be by conferencing the two houses together.”
Therefore, now more than ever, it is important to communicate to your Senators and Representatives if you are in support of immigration reform.