The Corner

Where Have You Gone, Marco Rubio? The GOP Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

The Democrats seem to be testing Senator Marco Rubio to see how desperate he is to pass an illegal-alien amnesty. Over the past few days, the administration or congressional Democrats have openly rejected all of Rubio’s preconditions for an immigration bill, effectively daring him to walk away from the Gang of Eight.

During his amnesty sales pitch on Limbaugh’s show in January, Rubio said of the amnestied illegals in the “probationary stage” (the legal status they receive on Day One and may remain in for the rest of their lives):

they don’t qualify for any federal benefits except for one, Obamacare. Obamacare is the only federal benefit where you qualify for it, not because you have a green card but only because you’re lawfully present. That issue needs to be resolved because if Obamacare is available to 11 million people, it blows a hole in our budget and makes this bill undoable.

Fast forward to last weekend, when every Senate Democrat (plus Collins and Murkowski) voted against an amendment by Jeff Sessions to bar legalized illegal aliens from taxpayer-subsidized coverage under Obamacare. So much for that precondition.

During his Limbaugh appearance, Rubio also said this:

If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there, if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it.

But on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who would implement any amnesty passed by Congress, rejected the very idea of “triggers,” benchmarks that would have to be satisfied before some provision or other of the law would go into effect. So much for that precondition.

Finally, Rubio said this to Limbaugh:

The next step in this process is to craft a starting point of legislation, and then after that it’s gonna have to go through committees and people are gonna have their input. There’s gonna be public hearings.  I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it.  I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input.

Senator Sessions and all the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee except those in the Gang of Eight (Flake and Graham) sent a letter to Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy asking for precisely the kind of transparency Rubio insisted would be required for his support.

Sure enough, Leahy’s petulant response rejected the GOP request. The letter said the committee would proceed to mark up the bill “with all deliberate speed,” saying that there had been enough hearings during prior Congresses. The schedule now is that the committee will begin working on the bill, without any further hearings, as soon as the Senate reconvenes April 8, in order to satisfy the president’s demand that he be sent a bill “as soon as possible.”

Senator Cruz and others have argued that such provocations are evidence the Democrats don’t want a bill at all, preferring to keep the issue unresolved so they can beat Republicans over the head with it in future elections. That’s not implausible. Rubio’s withdrawal from the Gang of Eight, or his subsequent opposition to whatever bill finally emerges from the Judiciary Committee, would doom the amnesty push. While amnesty can still be defeated if Rubio remains committed to it, it is guaranteed to fail if he pulls out, since his withdrawal would give cover to spineless Republicans (pardon the redundancy) to oppose the bill.

But I think it’s more likely that the Democrats really do want a bill but have calculated that the Republicans in general, and Rubio in particular, are so panic-stricken in their deluded desire to get immigration out of the way before the elections that they’ll simply cave on all outstanding issues. Leahy’s letter to Sessions suggested as much, praising the RNC autopsy and those Republicans who are “abandoning their former demagoguery and coming to the table.”

Rubio has met the Democrats more than halfway on this issue. In fact, he’s essentially adopted their positions on immigration, holding out only for some face-saving concessions — but even those concessions have now been decisively rejected. In the next few weeks, he will have to decide whether to lash himself to Chuck Schumer or walk away from a grotesquely deformed bill. His own future, not to mention the country’s will hinge on that decision.

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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