Rubio Hiding His Gang Colors

It didn’t get much attention, but yesterday Sen. Marco Rubio started publicly edging away from the handiwork of the Senate Gang of Eight on immigration reform, per this report from Seung Min Kim at Politico:

Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged Tuesday on a conservative radio talk show that the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill won’t likely pass the Republican-led House.

The comments from Rubio, perhaps the most influential congressional Republican on immigration, illustrate the challenges facing the prospects for reform after months of private negotiations by a bipartisan coalition of senators produced a wide-ranging, 844-page bill.

“The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House,” Rubio told Mike Gallagher, a nationally syndicated talk show host. “It will have to be adjusted, because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.”

He continued: “That is a very legitimate suspicion, it’s one that I share, and if there’s anything we can do to make [the bill] even tighter … that’s exactly what we should be working on.”

In a separate radio appearance Tuesday, Rubio elaborated on the challenges facing the legislation in the House, saying the enforcement mechanisms in the Senate legislation would need to be much stronger in order to pass the lower chamber.

This is an ancient stratagem for a pol who knows a bill he or she is supporting is unpopular with key constituencies: talk about opposition to it as though it’s some sort of external force of nature, and start caving to it preemptively. What you’d normally do is stand fast on the heavily negotiated Gang of Eight proposal, get it through the Senate with minimum changes, and only then start compromising. But Rubio is acutely aware that his Gang membership is a problem for him if he wants to be the Tea Party Candidate for president of the United States in 2016 (along with being the Great Latino Hope of the GOP), so he’s already hiding his Gang colors and talking about compromise.

Perhaps the Gang should call a midnight disciplinary meeting. Beyond that, it might be helpful at this point if a Democratic senator or two would call Rubio on his preemptive caving and suggest getting a bill through the Senate with united Democratic as well as maximum Republican support is Job One here. Let him pander to reform opponents later, or better yet, not at all.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.