The Corner

Rubio and the Democrats Play Chicken on Immigration

Following last week’s letter from Pat Leahy contemptuously dismissing Republican demands for hearings on the proposed (but not yet drafted immigration bill), Marco Rubio pushed back over the weekend. He wrote to Leahy insisting on:

hearings that explore multiple perspectives on the scope of the problems we face and the efficacy of the solutions we propose, markups in which a broad range of amendments can be considered, and a robust floor debate.  All of this, and any Conference Committee deliberations, should occur in the full view of the American people, broadcast on CSPAN, and streamed live on the internet.

In a separate statement, he said:

We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments. Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system. But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.

It would seem that Rubio and the Democrats are playing chicken, each one calculating the other will flinch first. Democrats think the GOP is so desperate for an amnesty they’ll agree to anything. For his part, Rubio is trying to secure his status of godfather of an immigration “compromise” by threatening delay, knowing the Democrats (and Lindsey Graham) are desperate to ram the amnesty through before the public gets a good look at it and before the midterm elections get too close.

I think there’s little doubt that both Rubio and the Democrats want an amnesty. But the game of chicken is a sign that their alliance is unstable. What’s more, both sides are already trying out their common Plan B, which is to blame the other for the failure of the bill. Some Republicans are saying Obama, Reid, and the unions are actively undermining the process, preferring to demagogue the issue in the 2014 elections. Some Democrats, in turn, think Rubio has always had his hand on the eject button just waiting for the best time to walk away from the amnesty push.

I think, in the end, that Rubio’s desire to shepherd an amnesty through Congress will cause him to cave to the Democrats’ demands. The Dems will give Rubio a few trivial concessions, so he can try to tell Limbaugh, Levin, et al. that he didn’t lie to them. But if I’m wrong, and he walks away saying he did his best but couldn’t overcome the Democrats’ for amnesty without enforcement, Rubio could strengthen his 2016 prospects.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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